Russia: Convoys of ships navigating through the Northern Sea Route in the Arctic can be routed bypassing the whitecoats (one month old babies of the harp seals) using satellite images, said Vladimir Gershenzon, General Director, ScanEx RDC.
“First we were told that it is impossible to see the whitecoats from space, only from the airplane. It turned out it was. There are long winding trails left by their moms while moving on ice, when the feed their babies and there are round-shape breathing holes in the ice as final points of these trails. It looks like a well in a desert with pathways meeting together. In the same way trails are meeting at the ice holes, where the seals jump into to get food and to feed their babies. Such ice holes are clearly seen on the highly detailed images and sometimes together with the seals,” continued Vladimir.
General Director reported that the problem is that when the convoy of ships starts following a specific route, it cannot make a detour. The ice-breaker is escorting several ships and if it has already laid the route through the whelping area, than it is not possible to change it and all the ships will follow this path killing the baby-seals.
In 2009 a decision was made in Russia to prohibit whitecoats and the harp seal hunting on the entire territory of the White Sea. Grey seals and hooded seals hunting prohibition was also imposed. Annually, 20-30 thousand valuable whitecoat firs were prepared and sold to Norway in the White Sea. The reasons of the White Sea harp seal population reduction are still the same: global climate changes, brining to the reduction in the area and lifetime of ice floes, where seals are breeding and uncontrolled navigation of ships in early spring through the seal whelping areas. Adverse impact of the ship navigation has been largely reduced in the past years, thanks to the application of the operational satellite-based imagery.