The Baltic Sea is in terrible shape. One of the most polluted seas in the world, more than 90% of commercially exploitable species in the Baltic and the adjacent Kattegat are fished without any limits.
That changed last Friday when the authorities of Uusimaa and the Southeast Finland Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment banned all wild sea trout fisheries in the Gulf of Finland. Wild sea trout is critically endangered in the Baltic Sea and has suffered under almost nonexistent management. Before the ban there was simply no limit to how much Baltic sea trout could be caught.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament recently announced that it would stake out a new, more responsible management strategy for Baltic Sea salmon, a fish hobbled, gravely in some areas, by similarly slipshod and unscientific management. Both developments are a validation of Oceana‚Äôs hard work in the region.
Earlier this year, Oceana‚Äôs research vessel, the Hanse Explorer, set off for a six-week expedition to the Baltic and Kattegat seas. The purpose of that trip was to document and map vulnerable areas and to study the marine life of these brackish waters through extensive sampling, as well as dives by remote operated vehicle and scuba divers (such as Oceana senior advisor Alexandra Cousteau who joined the cruise). This work will be crucial moving forward as the region works to rebuild its ailing fisheries, and it‚Äôs already started to pay off.
With the EU and Baltic countries signaling a renewed commitment to the stewardship of this unique but imperiled ecosystem there is very real hope that it can recover. But that will require the vigilance of Europe‚Äôs leaders and citizens, and of organizations like Oceana, which has been leading the charge in the effort to save the Baltic.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana
Our Baltic expedition came upon a sad sight this week: a dozen baby seals lying dead on the seafloor.
The team found the bodies while diving in Bogsk√§r islet off of Finland, home to a small grey seal colony. The dead seals were about six months old, and one was found near a dead adult. The cause of death is a mystery‚ÄĒthere were no visible injuries and the rest of the colony appeared to be healthy.
The deaths are being investigated, and hopefully we will find an answer to this tragedy. It‚Äôs possible that the seals were accidently caught and drowned in nets and then dumped back into the sea. They may also have suffered from a viral outbreak. Whatever happened, here‚Äôs hoping that it was an isolated incident and that the colony is able to recover from the loss of so many young seals.
Hey ocean lovers, the fall issue of our digital magazine is now available! There's lots of fun stuff inside as usual; here are some of the gems this time around:
*A gorgeous video from our expedition in the Baltic Sea this summer
*A slideshow of photos from this year‚Äôs Hamptons Splash party ‚Äď and a catchy tune by the Honey Brothers with Oceana ambassador Adrian Grenier
*Victory! Chile ends shark finning (warning: includes some gruesome footage)
*Stunning underwater video from this year‚Äôs expedition in the Mediterranean
*The 2011 Ocean Heroes ‚Äď shark loving youngster Sophi Bromenshenkel and marine mammal rescuer Peter Wallerstein
Check out the full issue to see the videos, photos and stories, and spread the word!
As a part of European Maritime Day, today Oceana‚Äôs team in the Baltic released some initial findings from the ongoing expedition. They presented guidelines for the protection of the Baltic Sea, including rules for sustainable fisheries management, habitat protection and ending harmful fishing subsidies.
The expedition team has been documenting the incredible biodiversity of the Baltic; check out the latest photos - from beautiful nudibranchs to grey seals to a dead jellyfish in the oxygen-deprived bottom of the deepest part of the Baltic:
These photos reveal the impact of pollution, overfishing and destructive fishing practices on the Baltic, but they also show areas with healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity, providing a window into what the Baltic Sea could look like if Marine Protected Areas are expanded and well-protected, and if laws and regulations are fully enforced.
Studies have shown that such enhanced protection measures and more stringent management of fish resources would benefit fishermen and local communities dependent on fisheries, as well as at-risk ecosystems.
Stay tuned for more from our team in the Baltic!
The expedition team is analyzing areas of special ecological importance in the Baltic to propose new Marine Protected Areas. Using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), the crew is documenting marine biodiversity as well as fisheries activity in the Baltic Sea.
The expedition divers have been braving the icy waters -- reportedly 2¬į Celsius (35¬į Fahrenheit) at one point -- to record some fantastic photo and video. Diver Gorka Leclercq writes that during one -1¬į C dive, the team attempted to collect samples of the seabed by hand, only to find the sand was ‚Äúfrozen hard as stone.‚ÄĚ
On the plus side, the lack of sediment in the water meant the divers were better able to see some of the cool creatures in the photos below. The images in the icy waters are my favorite, what about you?
Big news from across the pond: Oceana is growing.
We have just opened a new office in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark and one of Europe‚Äôs greenest cities. Copenhagen is perched between two major bodies of water: the brackish Baltic Sea to the east and the North Sea and Atlantic to the west.
While the Baltic region has provided enormous amounts of seafood historically -- most famously, cod -- today the Baltic faces pressure from industrial fishing. In addition, Copenhagen is an important city for diplomacy, and Oceana‚Äôs European offices in Madrid and Brussels will be well complemented by a team in Copenhagen.
The leader of our new Copenhagen office is a familiar face at Oceana. Anne Schroeer has worked as an economist for Oceana in Madrid for years, and she brings an intimate knowledge of fisheries and European diplomacy to the job. She will have her hands full in the coming months staffing the new office and planning her campaigns, which will include on-the-water expeditions.