Estonia's Environment Agency proposes to set annual grey seal shooting quota at 53



The Estonian Environment Agency has proposed to set the grey seal shooting quota for 2015, the first year in which hunting for seals in Estonian waters is again permitted, at 53 or 1 percent of the seals counted last year.

According to the proposal, 33 seals can be shot in the Gulf of Riga, 12 in the Gulf of Finland and eight off the northern and western shores of Hiiumaa Island.

The population of the grey seal in Estonia's coastal waters has grown in the last few decades while hunting has been banned unlike in Finland and Sweden. The Environment Agency's proposal therefore is very conservative, considering that this is the first year of hunting.

During spring and summer last year 5,266 grey seals were counted in Estonian waters. The population has been growing at an annual rate of 6.8 percent. The biggest numbers of seals have been counted in the Gulf of Riga where also the damages caused by them to fisheries are the heaviest.

The previous environment minister, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, signed the documents to re-allow seal hunting on her last workday in this position in November although experts recommended that the issue be given some more thought.

The Environment Ministry said experts have on the basis of the latest enumeration results come to the conclusion that the grey seal population in Estonian waters is sufficiently big to permit hunting in small numbers.

Grey seal hunting was re-allowed in Finland in 1997, in the autonomous Aaland Islands in 2000 and in Sweden in 2001.