In essence, the Baltic Sea is a unique sea area that unites northern Europe, but which has languished for decades due to human interference. Responsible actions and common ground rules can revive the Baltic Sea, despite the gravity of the situation.
The Baltic Sea, which covers an area of 392,000 square kilometres, is the world’s second-largest brackish inland sea after the Black Sea. It has a very small volume of water, being of an average depth of only 54 metres. Due to this and poor water exchange, it is also very sensitive to the effects of pollution and sources of damage.
In Finland, the Baltic Sea is being studied by the Finnish Environment Institute in particular, which engages in R&D to provide environmental information in support of policy-making. Run by the state, this organisation of more than 600 employees covers the natural sciences, environmental policy and the technology sector.
Pasi Laihonen, Development Manager at the Marine Research Centre, is in charge of project management and fund raising related to the Baltic Sea. He notes that the Baltic Sea’s key problem has been eutrophication, an environmental load caused by decades of human activity.
“The Baltic Sea is very shallow and heavily loaded, being surrounded by more than 80 million people. Eutrophication means that there are too many nutrients in the sea, which increases the onset and abundance of algae blooms. This de-oxygenates the water and transforms the ecosystem. If this continues for a long period, the Baltic Sea will become a murky ocean populated by black clams, making it unfit for recreational purposes and as a source of raw water.”
Agricultural activities in the area are currently the greatest polluter. Harmful substances produced by farming enter the Baltic Sea via several rivers. In addition, sewage systems bring industrial and municipal waste that is harmful to the environment.
“Toxin levels in fish have been high due to contamination, particularly in oily fish, which is affecting fish stocks and the fishing industry. In terms of vegetation, there has been a radical reduction in the amount of kelp, for example. This is a key species in the ecosystem, because the offspring and well-being of many other organisms depend on kelp.”