“Hopeful” - Caspian Seal
Acrylic on Canvas, 10” x 8” x 1.5"
Original Painting: SOLD
Limited Edition Archival Metal Print on Floating Frame: $300.00
Time to Completion: 122 Hours
Ounces of Paint: 12
Custom sizes and materials available for prints. Inquire here.
Human Impacts Resulting in Protected Status:
Trade & Hunting:
The Caspian Seal has been commercially exploited since the late 1700’s for food and furs. Seal skins are used for various clothing items in Russia, such as hats. The Caspian Seal blubber is used as fishing bait, cattle feed, and as medicinal tonic in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. As of 2013, high quality seal skins sell for up to $100.00 at the point of origin. Caspian Seal oil can sell for $14.00 per liter in local markets.
In the 1800 and 1900’s, the exploitation skyrocketed. The average annual harvest was between 120,000 and 175,000 Caspian Seals, with the highest annual peaks of about 300,000. During World War II, the annual harvest numbers plummeted to 65,000. In 1996, the harvest yields dramatically dropped to 14,000 Caspian Seals.
Unofficial or illegal hunting is poorly documented, but is thought to be responsible for harvesting hundreds of Caspian Seals on an annual basis.
Illegal fisheries of the endangered Sturgeon are responsible for large numbers of Caspian Seal bycatch. Bycatch is the accidental (and usually fatal) catch of unwanted animals while fishing. Usually, bycatch is discarded, but in the case of the Caspian Seal, their skins and blubber can be taken to market. According to interviews conducted in the fishing villages of Dagestan and Astrakhan regions of Russia, and the Atyrau region of Kazakhstan, a minimum of 1,215 Caspian Seals were the subject of bycatch in the 2008 and 2009 fishing seasons. The results brought to light in the interviews are thought to account for less than 10% of the overall poaching activities in the Northern Caspian Sea area, therefore, bycatch numbers are most likely in the 15,000 range per fishing season. The survey did not capture information about the Middle and Southern Caspian Sea areas.
Seal nets were prohibited in 1940 and the harvesting of moulting Caspian Seals was terminated in 1946. The Apsheron Archipelago in Azerbaijan was closed to sealing in 1952. Harvesting of female Caspian Seals was ended in 1966. In 1967, all hunting was prohibited in the Eastern Islands of the Northern Caspian Sea. In 1970, quotas on harvest of pups was implemented, though modern scientists claim the quota levels were unsustainable.
The extraordinarily low 1996 annual harvest of 14,000 Caspian Seals prompted a temporary halt on hunting, so the Caspian Seals population could grow back to healthy levels. Since then, Russia has allowed smaller scale commercial and scientific hunting, yielding about 4,600 Caspian Seals in 2003 and 2004.
The Caspian Bioresources Commission has implemented a hunting quota system, though the scientific community claims that the rationale behind the quota numbers is unclear. Annual quotas usually allocate 18,000 Caspian Seals, with 8,000 specific to Russia. The remaining 10,000 quota is divided among the other Caspian States. It is thought, however, that the bycatch of Caspian Seals resulting from illegal Sturgeon fisheries far exceeds this number.
The Caspian States banned all catching of wild Sturgeon in 2014, therefore decreasing bycatch of the Caspian Seals. More recently, Kazakhstan has increased their maritime patrols to counter illegal Sturgeon fishing.
Small, non-governmental organizations based within the Caspian countries have been working to produce educational materials, and promoting awareness of the Caspian Seal’s plight. In Iran, some of these organizations have been working with fishing communities to promote the release of living bycatch Caspian Seals, rather than killing live animals caught in their nets. A stranded seal rehabilitation facility has also been established.
Profits will go to the Caspian Seal Project, which works to define the status of the Caspian Seal populations, then identify and respond to threats. The Caspian Seal Project currently monitors annual pup production, population trends, range distributions, health, and mortality status of the Caspian Seal. They also work to develop and implement conservation action plans and raise awareness of the Caspian Seal, in order to make it a flagship species for the Caspian region.