Education aims and policy

  • Education – in its broadest sense and at all levels – runs through the entire Darwin project. As the Caspian seal studies progress, the scientists involved are able continuously to increase their knowledge of the species’ conservation status and threats, and then work to disseminate their findings to Caspian communities as well as to the wider scientific communities.

  • Information flow routes – The first step in the education part of the project is to ensure that the network of channels of communication between all parties – from government institutions to school children – are fully open and that information flows freely through this network.

  • Caspian seal as a flagship species – The Darwin project hopes to promote the Caspian seal as a flagship species for the health of the Caspian ecosystem. This will be achieved through disseminating information via the Caspian Seal Conservation Network (CSCN), the Caspian Environment Programme (CEP), local communities, schools and children.

  • Informing stakeholders – Mutual education among scientists and stakeholders should disseminate up-to-date information about all aspects of seal conservation status via the appropriate channels (CSCN and CEP Strategic Action Plan Implementation Coordinators, or SAPICS) to the Caspian Resources Commission, with whom responsibility lies for recommending seal hunting quotas in the region. The project will strive to emphasise the importance of Caspian marine biodiversity for sustainable economies.

  • Introduction of new scientific methodologies – The project is fortunate to be able to benefit from the expertise of the foremost seal population specialists in western Europe. With the help of these scientists, the project is introducing modern methods of studying seal population size, while investigations of seal diet, health and contaminant loads are conducted by non-lethal means, i.e. seals are not killed or harmed for research.

  • Working with local fishing communities – Because fisheries by-catch has been identified as a significant source of seal deaths, work is already underway with fishermen and game wardens to reduce the mortality while at the same time gaining information from live animals. The rapid success of this new programme in Iran is a testament to the wonderful spirit of cooperation and trust existing between scientists and local communities.