Säkylä, the home on whitefish, baton blues and grasshoppers

SÄKYLÄ is a municipality of 5000 inhabitants, situated in the province of Satakunta in southwestern Finland. Sixty per cent of its area of 268,61 square kilometres is land, 40 per cent is water.

The municipality is known for the garrison stationed in 1963 in Huovinrinne on Säkylänharju Ridge, and for the large and successful food industry. The biggest employers are the Säkylä garrison (Pori Brigade), Lännen Tehtaat Plc, Broilertalo Oy, the Municipality of Säkylä, the Intermunicipal Federation of Public Health, and Sucros Säkylä.

For its diversity of nature, Säkylä has a special position among Finnish municipalities. Lake Pyhäjärvi, situated mainly in the area of Säkylä, is the biggest lake in southwestern Finland. It is renowned for its clean and clear water and big yields of fish, and the maintenance of its natural state is secured by the common efforts of the inhabitants, of the municipality, and of the industry. Insects found nowhere else in Finland live on Säkylänharju Ridge. The fauna and flora of the ridge include several other rare and threatened species. No wonder that nearly half of the area of Säkylä is included in the European Natura 2000 Conservation Network.

A LAKE RICH IN FISH, Pyhäjärvi has given livelihood to a large number of professional fishermen in the past decades. At the end of 1970s, winter fishing was carried out by as many as 12 seine gangs. In the last few years, there have been three or four seine gangs and about twenty professional fishermen.

The yearly catch of fish, approximately a million kilograms, means that the yield is 60 kilograms per hectare. The average catch of fish in Finnish lakes is only ten kilograms per hectare.

The most significant fish, the whitefish and the vendace, make up about 40per cent of the total catch. Among free-time fishermen, big perches and also pike are very popular. The signal crayfish, pIanted in the lake, has started to yield good catches during the past few years. The biggest signal crayfish in Finland, 18,7 centimetres long, was caught in Pyhäjärvi.

Supported by a management project of fish stocks, subsidized by the EU i the fishermen have been active in improving the condition of the lake by catching large amounts of fish of lesser value, e.g. the ruff, the smelt, and the roach.

AT FIRST SIGHT, Lake Pyhäjärvi seems to be dazzlingly beautiful and clear. It may be hard to believe that, occasionally, the water can be full of blue-green algae or that the lake could be threatened by the green danger, eutrophication.

The excessive nutrient loading, going on for decades, has led to progressing eutrophication. Most of the nutrients come from the catchment area of the lake, but loading from the air through dust and rain is also significant. In addition, internal nutrient loading is concentrated on the lake while nutrients deposited on the bottom are released to be used by organisms.

Fortunately, local people have always been willing to invest in the conservation of Lake Pyhäjärvi, which means that there have been adequate resources for the project. Various measures of conservation have been carried out, and the progress of eutrophication has been stopped for the present. However, mild winters and floods with maximum loading can hamper the conservation.

PYHÄJÄRVI is a versatile bird lake. During the year, practically all of the water and shore birds of the Finnish inland waters are found there. The nesting species include birds of lakes with barren shores and clear waters, as well as some demanding specialities of the best eutrophic bird bays.

The avifauna of Lake Pyhäjärvi is under change. In the 1990s, newcomers in the nesting fauna were the mute swan and the Canada goose. Also the whooper swan has already been nesting in the eutrophic bays off Säkylä. White-tailed eagles come in winter after fish left on the ice by fishermen. As many as thirty white-tailed eagles have been counted on the expanse of ice.

In near future, it is possible that also the greylag goose, the bamacle goose and the great black- backed gull will become established on the lake. Also the explosive growth of the population of the cormorant in the Baltic Sea will create pressures of expansion in the inland waters.

SÄKYLÄNHARJU RIDGE was formed in the enormous tumult of the ice age. The first small islands came up from the ridge over 8 000 years B.C.

In Finland, Säkylänharju Ridge is a rare natural formation. The slopes are exceptionally steep in many places, and the highest point of the ridge rises up to 143 metres above sea level. During thousands of years, the ridge has been a route of migration for plants, animals and also people. Species of plants, rooted in the soil exposed from beneath the sea nearly 10000 years ago, are still found on the ridge.

In the past thousands and hundreds of years, expansive forest fires have occasionally raged in the ridge area. The result is that there have always been large and nearly treeless heaths and sand fields on the ridge. The garrison was moved to Säkylänharju Ridge in 1963. Ever since then, a significant part of the ridge has served as a training area of the armed forces. As for nature conservation, this has been extremely lucky, because the exercises of the army prevent the ridge from getting wooded and create open sunny slopes and drift sand fields.

English translation: Auli Hurme-Keränen
(Siian, sinisiiven ja sirkkojen Säkylä,
Säkylän kunta 2005
ISBN 952-99490-1-4)