Causes of Death is a photo series of necropsies that are conducted on harbour porpoises and the Saimaa ringed seals in order to determine what the animals have died from. As an artist and a biology student, I find attending necropsies interesting, but at the same time the researchers’ thorough work reminds me of human shortcomings: we act first and only afterwards see if any negative impacts follow. The cumulative effects of many threats are particularly poorly known.
Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) is the only cetacean species that lives in the Baltic Sea. While the species used to be common and widely distributed in the Baltic, the current population is critically endangered with only about 450 individuals left. Harbour porpoises face many human-induced threats both in the Baltic region and elsewhere. Some of the major threats include bycatch, environmental toxins and disturbance from noise and other sources.
Saimaa ringed seal (Pusa hispida saimensis) can be found only in the Lake Saimaa in Finland. The current population size estimate is at 360 individuals. While the population has increased during the past few years, the Saimaa ringed seal is still endangered. Bycatch from non-commercial fishing, the climate change and disturbance are among the biggest concerns.
The series has received funding from the Finnish Art Promotion Center.