Protected grey seals at the mercy of Poland’s ruling party

A young Grey Seal with its mother at the Hel Marine station of the Institute of Oceanography of the Gdansk University in Hel, Poland, 16 March 2011. Every week a dead seal is found on Poland's beaches. [EPA/ADAM WARZAWA POLAND OUT]

Poland’s ruling party has a peculiar stance when it comes to nature conservation- a clear example of this is the felling of the Białowieża Forest. The recent killings of protected seals along the country’s shore have been completely ignored by the party, which believes that ecology is a notion created by the left. EURACTIV’s partner Gazeta Wyborcza reports.

In Poland, even the fate of seals has become a political issue. Some years ago, the population of these creatures began to recover in the Polish Baltic Sea. This was largely due to the scientific research station in Hel, which serves as a breeding ground and also houses a hospital, helping young seals found on the coast that cannot yet cope with heading out into the world.

The media have for many years been writing about more seals being released. Now we are writing about yet another seal being found on the shore with its head smashed in. Yes. In the first half of 2018, protected seals are being killed in Poland.

It all began with words uttered by Dorota Arciszewska-Mielewczyk, an MP of the ruling ‘Law and Justice’ (PiS) party.

“The seal is an obvious pest, and the Baltic Sea is not its natural environment. Before the war, fishermen were paid for killing seals. Its appearance in Poland is a move by the WWF and ecologists, who are mainly Germans, who would like to move the reserves to Poland. We have to start doing something. There is no other way,” she said in March.

She added that it should not be the case that “a pest gets more protection than fishermen” and called for the protected animals be shot. The situation quickly got out of control. Not a week goes by without a dead seal being found on the beach.

Nobody gets caught but some believe that the seals are killed by trawler workers, since seals eat fish from their nets, causing significant losses. Their victims are young, inexperienced and trustful, and can therefore be easily approached as they are unable to defend themselves.

There is no reaction from the authorities to these dreadful incidents. The fishermen are, after all, PiS voters. In addition, PiS’s attitude to nature conservation is highly peculiar.

Ten years ago, during the first PiS government, the party pushed for a construction of the Augustów by-pass through the Rozpuda protected marshlands, which are part of the Natura 2000 area. Protests by ecologists and the determined stand of the European Commission saved the marshes from destruction.

In 2016, the PiS government was much more intransigent over the felling of the Białowieża Forest. Claiming that the last primaeval forest of Europe was threatened by an invasion of bark beetle, timber cutters entered the protected area with their harvesters.

The protesting ecologists were forcibly removed and appeals from Europe ignored. At the same time, trees were being felled all over the country since PiS had changed the regulations on environmental protection, enabling property owners to clear their land of trees without asking anyone for permission.

EU court fells Poland’s illegal logging of ancient forest

The European Court of Justice has confirmed that the logging of ancient woodland in Poland infringes EU law, paving the way for penalties against Warsaw and prolonging its spat with Brussels.

PiS views ecology as a notion created by leftists, every bit as dangerous as the gender ideology they propagate. The party ignores the critical voice of reputable scientists but favours foresters who treat forests as being sources of wood that can be sold.

The other group which PiS holds dear are the hunters, who have long successfully defended themselves against any limits on their opportunities to hunt. PiS politicians even came up with the idea of recruiting soldiers for territorial defence units from among hunters.

At the end of last year, the ruling party unexpectedly voted for changes in the hunting law that allowed hunting in nature reserves. This was reversed a few months later, on the recommendation of the PiS leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, who is the most sensitive of the party’s leaders when it comes to treating animals.

He is also an advocate of a ban on rearing animals for fur.

The trees of the Białowieża Forest were defended by members of the European Parliament and the matter was finally decided by the European Court of Justice, which ordered Poland to stop the felling. Not wanting to pay millions in penalties, the PiS government duly obeyed the verdict.

Europe will not, however, compel anyone to defend Poland’s seals.

Poland’s logging of protected forest is illegal, top EU court rules

European Court of Justice judges decided on Tuesday (17 April) that Poland’s logging activities in Białowieża Forest are against EU law and heavy fines are due to follow unless the government takes immediate action.

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