Last February, Green Korea United visited Dalian, China, where spotted seals from Baekryung-do breed every year. Green Korea United is now collecting data for a report, which will show Chinese conservation efforts and research activities regarding spotted seals. GKU hopes that this report will promote the cooperative work among China, North and South Korea. Their cooperation can improve their relationship as well as the difficult situation of endangered spotted seals.


▲ Spotted seals protected by Sun Asia Sea World, in Dalian, China


Cries of Spotted Seals from a Warehouse
It was at the coast of Changxing Island, in eastern Liaodong Bay on Feb 27, 2005. Tearful voices of seals was coming out of a secluded warehouse. 
“These are spotted seals. They are so young as to need milk,” said a local newspaper reports.  12 baby spotted seals were kept in a cramped pool. They had not even shedded their hair.
“Young males are easy to raise and train. Even if they get sick and kick the bucket, we don't lose anything,” the nespaper added.
The genitals of spotted seals bring a good price to customers. Also, people are selling sealskin after their coat-shedding. It costs from 4000 yuan to 8, 000 yuan for each skin. 


▲ "Give ears to the wailing of spotted seals". In early 2005, 40 illegal poaching ships captured around 30 spotted seals


▲ A young spotted seal illegally captured. A man is handing it over to a merchandiser. The spotted seal has just started shedding hair


1,000 Spotted Seals Victimized Each Year

One of Chinese regional newspapers collected data about poaching spotted seals in Liaodong Bay, March 2005. It reported 1,000 numbers of spotted seals were victimized every year. In the winter of 2005, almost 40 Fishing boats went to the sea in the dark, and captured around 30 spotted seals each. Adult males were killed for genitals and sealskin while females were sold in the black market. Young spotted seals were kept until they shed their hair, some of which were sent to a zoo.

Genitals of Spotted Seals as Sexual Stimulants
China people have poached spotted seals for a long time. Fishermen from Yingkou, Chanxing Island, Lushunkou captured over 1,000 in 1950s, 400~500 in 1960s and 1970s each year. People caught them with small arms and fishing implements. Their hair was sold for fur pieces, and their meat, oil and genitals for sexual stimulants. Young spotted seals usually went to zoos. Lushun zoo, for example, took 100 of them every year in 1970s and 1980s. Most of them died because of their lack of viability. A document said that 92 of young spotted seals died, out of 147.

▲ Health products containing harp seals' oil, Canada. With the increase of international demands for sealskin, the Canadian government facilitated the killing of 100 million harp seals over 3 years.


▲ The advertisement for genitals of spotted seals on sale. This pharmaceutical company in Shandong peninsula is using spotted seals for its medicine


Is Baekryeong Island a Safe Place for Spotted Seals?
Greedy humans are threatening spotted seals with extinction. Poaching has increased with the demand for sealskin and health products. Youngs were captured and handed over to some zoo. The mouth of the Shuangtaizi river, one of the major habitats of spotted seals in China, was damaged by reclamation and fish farming. Also, oil exploration deteriorated their habitats. Unfortunately, the Changxing Island city authorities allowed the development of the land, making the spotted seal sanctuary even smaller. In Korea, tourist ships and fishing boats have decreased the number of spotted seals, especially in Dumu-jin, Yongki-po. Now spotted seals are forced to move to Yeonbong, which is between Baekryung Island and Daecheong Island.


▲ Spotted seals around nets, absorbed in finding food, Baekreong Island. Nets are threatening the survival of spotted seals


Urgent Need for Protection and Research
Spotted seals are well known for their maternal instinct. They stick to their young even when they are chased or struck hard by people. Sometimes, females are captured while looking for their young and following poaching boats. A brace of spotted seals has only one baby each year, so there is an urgent need for protection against poaching. Their surviving is at stake. Even researchers don't know for certain how many seals are living in Liaodong Bay, China. It is just estimated that 8,000 of them in the 1940s came to 2,300 in the 1980s, and they have slightly increased since poaching was banned in 1983 in Liaodong.


▲ A brochure made by Pacific Environment, showing that several factors such as global warming, oil exploitation, oceanic pollution, diminishing fishes as well as poaching lead to decrease in Spotted Seals


Disappeared Ringed Seals and Ribbon Seals
In the first half of the nineteenth century, Yak-jeon Jeong described a seal with yellow and dark blue spots in his writing Chasaneobo. The habitats of our spotted seals included Baekryung Island, Taeahn Bay, Chilsan sea, and Huksan Island. It was only 200 years ago. According to Chosun Chimseungryuji(animal report)(issued in North Korea) or the research of Dr. Mun-ki Jeong, we had various kinds of seals such as ringed seals, ribbon seals as well as spotted seals. Unfortunately, ringed seals and ribbon seals became extinct after they were moved to Chankyung palace and Pyungyang zoo, in the 1960s. Spotted seals are managing to survive wandering over China, North and South Korea. If we don't take any measures immediately, they will also disappear.
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  1. 2012/01/18 18:15
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