The Center for Research and Rehabilitation of the Caspian Seal and the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomic Research organized one of the largest inteational expeditions in the Caspian Sea at the end of February, led by the center's founder, Aselle Tasmagambadova.
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, a partner of the Tasmagambetova Institute since 2022, also supported the researchers.
Scientists from the United States, Norway, Great Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, and Kazakhstan embarked on an expedition to gather as much information as possible about the Caspian seal, an endangered mammal species listed in the Red Book.
Pollution, illegal hunting, global warming, and disease all pose grave threats to these species.
"Caspian seals only breed, give birth, nurture, and raise their young on the ice. Thus, global warming, in conjunction with the already-documented decline in water levels, will have a significant impact on the most crucial habitat for seals" – CAIER founder Aselle Tasmagambetova explains the environmentalists' conces. With the help of specialized sensors provided by Saudi Arabian collaborators for the expedition, the scientists expect to lea crucial information about how seals respond to temperature fluctuations. "This is incredibly crucial. We estimate that oil, industrial and heavy metals, agricultural pesticides, radioactive waste, effluent, and household refuse have poisoned the habitat of seals, and that up to 70 percent of females of this species are unable to reproduce. Tasmagambetova suggests that, in the future, creatures may have to search for new habitats. According to the ecologist, since the seal rehabilitation center in Aktau, Kazakhstan was established two years ago, approximately 70 seals have been rehabilitated. Tasmagambetova adds, "approximately half of them were apprehended by illicit networks, so this is another significant issue that must be addressed."
Dr. Tommy Nyman, a researcher from the NIBIO Svanhovd Molecular Center who also participated in the expedition, observes that the situation of seals in the Caspian Sea is comparable to that of seals residing in Finland's Lake Saimaa. "However, while the population of Caspian seals is declining, the population of Saimaa seals is slowly increasing, from 150 individuals in the 1980s to just over 400 individuals currently." According to Norwegian environmentalist Tasmagambetova, this is most likely due to new restrictions on fishing nets.
As a result of the expedition, scientists will have to analyze a vast quantity of data regarding the Caspian Sea mammals' habitat and their susceptibility to diseases and parasites. However, it is already evident that all Caspian region nations must reach mutual agreements in order for everyone to conserve the Caspian Sea's ecosystem and marine life.
Particularly, the Center for Research and Rehabilitation of the Caspian Seal is willing to coordinate efforts to save endangered animals.
Aselel Tasmagambetova explained the objective of such expeditions as follows: "All analyses, studies, and collected data can be used to devise a targeted transnational policy within the framework of the Tehran Convention to reverse the present decline in the seal population."