The Center for Research and Rehabilitation of the Caspian Seal, which was started by Aselle Tasmagambatova, and the Norwegian Institute for Bioeconomic Research put together one of the largest inteational expeditions in the Caspian Sea at the end of February.
The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia also helped the researchers. This university has been a partner with the Tasmagambetova Institute since 2022.
Scientists from the United States, Norway, Great Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, and Kazakhstan went on an expedition to find out as much as they could about the Caspian seal, which is on the Red Book's list of endangered mammals.
These animals are in danger from pollution, illegal hunting, global warming, and diseases.
"Caspian seals only breed, have babies, feed, and raise their young on the ice. So, global warming, along with the already known drop in water levels, will have a big effect on seals' most important habitat. This is why environmentalists are worried, says Aselle Tasmagambetova, founder of CAIER. With the help of special sensors from partners in Saudi Arabia, the scientists hope to lea a lot about how seals deal with changes in temperature. "This is a very important thing. We think that oil, industrial and heavy metals, agricultural pesticides, radioactive waste, sewage, and household waste have poisoned the seals' habitat, and that up to 70% of the females of this species may not be able to reproduce right now. Tasmagambetova says, "The animals may have to try to find new places to live in the future." According to the ecologist, about 70 seals have been helped by the seal rehabilitation center in Aktau, Kazakhstan since it opened two years ago. "About half of them were caught by illegal networks," Tasmagambetova says. "This is another serious problem that needs to be fixed."
Dr. Tommy Nyman, a researcher at the NIBIO Svanhovd Molecular Center who also went on the expedition, says there are some similarities between seals in the Caspian Sea and seals in Finland's Lake Saimaa. "However, while the number of Caspian seals is going down, the number of Saimaa seals is slowly going up. In the 1980s, there were only 150 of them, but today there are just over 400. "This is probably because of new rules about fishing nets," says Tasmagambetova, an environmentalist from Norway.
As a result of the expedition, scientists will have to study a lot of information about where the mammals of the Caspian Sea live and what diseases and parasites they can get. But it is already clear that all the countries around the Caspian Sea need to come to an agreement so that everyone works to protect the sea's environment and marine life.
In particular, the Center for Research and Rehabilitation of the Caspian Seal is ready to take on a coordinating role to save endangered animals.
Aselel Tasmagambetova said, "All analyses, studies, and information gathered can be used to create a targeted transnational policy within the framework of the Tehran Convention to stop the current decline in the seal population."