The goal of the SOTKA project is to establish at least 150 resting areas in Finland by 2030. The sites included to date are wetlands, parts of natural waters or large bays. They range in size from 2.5 to 250 hectares. The resting area project involves communication, training and the expansion of the pilot-site network.
“We are extremely thankful for Metsä Group’s funding, which enables us to provide training and guidance,” says Veli-Matti Pekkarinen, expert in waterfowl habitats, from the Finnish Hunters’ Association.
The two-year project is carried out jointly by the Finnish Hunters’ Association and BirdLife Finland. According to Pekkarinen, the two organisations share the same goal: to strengthen declining waterfowl populations and boost the biodiversity of habitats.
“This will have long-term benefits for both recreational hunting and the management of bird populations. This kind of cooperation between two organisations working with waterfowl is unique in Finland and demonstrates the necessity of our activities,” says Pekkarinen.
The better the condition waterfowl are in when they leave Finland, the better and more productive their condition when they return to nest here. Resting areas can help improve the state of waterfowl populations when combined with the management of nursery areas and the control of predators. Waterfowl are migratory game birds, but nevertheless, their populations are best managed at their own local sites.
According to Pekkarinen, the goal is to establish a comprehensive evenly distributed network of resting areas.
Model from Denmark
The model for the SOTKA project comes from Denmark, where the state established protected areas for birds in the Danish Straits 20 years ago. As a result, the number of waterfowl increased in the area and autumn migration began later than before. What is more, the change did not have a negative impact on the overall haul of hunters, who were originally critical about the move. Indeed, hunters saw their hunting conditions improve, and birdwatchers also provided positive feedback.
Similarly to Denmark, the goal in Finland is to increase local hunting opportunities and extend the short waterfowl hunting season.
“We also want to establish resting areas inland to serve waterfowl in continental Finland. This practice is now being introduced to hunters, and the goal is to specifically reach owners of waterbodies to encourage them to engage in population management,” says Pekkarinen.
According to him, approaches like the SOTKA project are cost-effective. “There’s no need for big investments or legal agreements, but instead, an oral agreement is all it takes to join the activities. This is an easy way for regions to get involved.”
In the initial phase, oral agreements will remain in force until further notice. However, a few individual agreements have been concluded for as long as five years.
Text: Annamari Heikkinen
This article was originally published in issue 3/2022 of Metsä Group’s Viesti magazine