Sweden to introduce licenced hunt to cope with growing seal population

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may expand the right to hunt seals in the Baltic Sea due to an increasing population of the mammals.

Sweden to introduce licenced hunt to cope with growing seal population
Sweden is one of just a handful of countries that currently allows seal hunting, but the rule change would mean fewer restrictions on hunting. Photo: Janerik Henriksson / SCANPIX/TT

The growing number of seals along the coast of Sweden can cause problems for the fishing industry, because the seals tend to tear apart fishing equipment and eat caught fish.

The Swedish EPA has for several years allowed for so-called protective hunts of ringed seals, harbour seals and grey seals, which means that hunts can go ahead if the animal population is seen as a threat to humans or livestock.

But in many parts of Sweden, less than half the allocated quota is met, due to a low interest from hunters.

“It's a time-consuming and costly hunt, as for the most part it needs to be done from a boat,” said Nils Mårtenson who is the head of the EPA's game management unit. “In addition, the seals are supposed to be recovered and taken care of but according to EU regulations, no products from seals can be sold.”

The seal population poses a problem for the fishing industry across the country, with grey seals predominantly in Skåne and along the Baltic Sea coast, harbour seals along the West Coast and ringed seals further north.

Seals lack natural predators, and their living environment has improved over the past ten years due to a reduction in the level of environmental toxins finding their way into the water.

Now the government has asked the EPA to look into a licence hunt on grey seals. The difference between this and the protective hunt is that the latter is more strictly regulated, and may only take place within 200 metres of a place where fishing is carried out.

A final decision on the licence hunt will come into force from April and will be in effect until January 31st, 2021.


hunt (noun) — (en) jakt

to hunt — att jaga

seal — (en) säl

time-consuming — tidskrävande

costly — kostsam

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Swedish regions raise limits on bear-hunting to combat attacks on reindeer

Several Swedish regions have increased the number of bears that can be killed during this year's hunting season.

Swedish regions raise limits on bear-hunting to combat attacks on reindeer
A hunter prepares to go out on the first day of the bear-hunting season in Sweden. Photo: Adam Ihse / TT

Jämtland is doubling the amount of bears that are allowed to be killed in the region this year to 200. 

The decision comes after the regional bear population has grown to 1,044 at the last count. Jämtland is hoping that the expanded license will reduce the number of bears to around 650.  

We have assessed that the heavy expansion of licensed hunting is necessary, partly to reduce the bear population to the regional target within five years,” said Emma Andersson, who is in charge of managing game and hunting for the region.

Sweden allows some licensed hunting of bears, partly because of their interference with reindeer herding, one of the main economic sectors in northern Sweden for Indigenous Sámi people.

There are around 1,000 reindeer herding companies in Sweden, and an estimated 2,500 people are dependent on incomes from reindeer herding, according to the website of the Sámi parliament.

The presence of predators in northern Sweden has become a complicated political issue as they pose a great threat to the sustainable farming practices of the Sámi. The Sámi parliament estimates that one quarter of reindeer are killed by predators each year, significantly higher than the ten percent limit set by parliament. 

At the same time, the hunting of bears and other predators like wolves must be strictly overseen by the region due to their protected status. 

The increased allowance for hunting bears in Jämtland is directed specifically towards areas where there is a clear link that it could harm the reindeer herding industry, according to the regional board.

Similar decisions have been taken in Västerbotten, where 85 bears can be killed this year compared to 25 in the previous year, and in Västernorrland where they are allowing 75, almost doubling the previous year’s figure.

While no decision has been taken yet in Norrbotten, the hunting association is demanding similar measures, as 20 bears were shot last year during the hunt and another 60 through emergency measures to protect reindeer.

The licensed hunting period takes place between August 21st and October 15th in Norrbotten every year, with some exceptions.

A count by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency found that there were around 2,900 bears in total in Sweden as of 2017.