The center’s initial findings showed that many Iranians were not even aware of the existence of Caspian Seal in this lake, and those who knew, including fishermen and indigenous people, were ill-informed. Increasing public awareness about the importance of the Caspian Seal can help the conservation of this beautiful creature. Therefore, the Caspian seal conservation center with the aim to raise awareness, has so far held more than 50 workshops throughout Iran, especially in the Caspian Sea provinces, for different target groups (I.e. in Gorgan, Bandar Turkmen, Gomishan, Bandar Gaz, Sari, Babolsar, Noshahr, Lahijan, Bandar Anzali, Talesh, Rasht, Chalous, Tehran, Shahrood, Khorramabad and Khorramshahr).
With no doubt, without the cooperation of fishermen, the Caspian Seal activities for conservation are pointless. For this reason, the Caspian seal conservation center has taken initiative in the following projects:
(۱) In order to raise awareness of fishermen about the Caspian seal, many fishermen have attended training workshops and trained to call the center in the event of seeing an injured or trapped seal. They even get to name the seal..
(۲) Regularly visited the fishermen to identify problems they are facing and maintaining a friendly relationship.
(۳) Paid damage costs to the fishing nets because of stuck seals, the cost of fuel for delivering saved seal to the center, and cash prize as reward for the fishermen.
(۴) Paid tribute to fishermen who have been working with the center to save the seals, and rewarded to all fishermen involved in rescue operations
It is not expected that all the efforts for protection of Caspian seal work out without paying attention to the problems of indigenous people and the families of fishermen. Therefore, the Caspian seal conservation center has taken steps to address the problems of indigenous people and to identify their concerns, in particular,economic challenges. For example, the center, in the form of a “Reconciliation with Nature” project, contracted a group of local artists to make handicrafts from the region, including rugs and pottery, and then exported the products to the Netherlands and Germany. The sales profit was given back to the local artists.
Experts from the Center attending radio and television programs, interviewing various journals and news agencies, using social networks such as Instagram and Telegram, publishing educational brochures, holding workshops for children and adolescents, participating in various exhibitions, attracting artists’ support and prominent individuals to introduce the Caspian seals and to help create documentary films to raise awareness about the Caspian seal.
The Caspian seal conservation center has been conducting various research projects in the form of student dissertations with the faculties of veterinary medicine, natural resources and environmental sciences, of different universities across the region (such as Gorgan, Babolsar, Babol, Noor, Bandar Anzali and Semnan). In these projects, studies have been done with sharing data, samples and knowledge of the center’s experts with the facilities of universities (manpower, laboratories and equipment). Part of what we know about the Caspian Seal is the result of these collaborations.
The Caspian seal conservation center was supported by a number of governmental organizations in recent years as a results of various meetings. Today, various government organizations, especially on the eastern coast, play an important role in facilitating the way the center reaches its goals. For example, environmental agencies were licensed to work in different areas and work with seals. Fisheries annually informs fishermen by brochures and posters about the importance of protecting the Caspian seal and also facilitating workshops. Sturgeon Affairs Department not only has provided space for the construction of the center, but also helps with transportation of center’s experts via sea to collect the wounded seal. Also, the sea border guards inform the center if they observe seals. Ports and shipping of the Caspian Sea have also chosen the Caspian seal as their symbol, and soon the Caspian seal banners will be installed on ports as well as on ships.
The Caspian Seal conservation center has also been working to attract NGO partnerships, which has led to fruitful cooperation with NGOs like Golestan Natural Resources Depoters, the Golestan Animal Protection Association, Golestan Green Look, the Green Mazandaran Zaghmarz Environment Conservation Association, Gilan Wildlife Camps, Survivors of Gilan Nature and the Society for the Protection of Iranian Animals. The NGOs have been working with the Center to hold training workshops, public gatherings and signatures for a lawsuit on the hunting of Caspian seal, as well as their members volunteering in coastal areas with the relief and rescue teams.