Oceana urges the Danish and Swedish governments to jointly manage and protect the Sound from damaging human activities that are causing the decline of key marine habitats such as horse mussel beds and Haploops communities. The exceptional value of this shared strait underscores the need for cooperative management, so that economic activities go hand in hand with conservation. This was among the main conclusions of an event hosted yesterday by Oceana and eight other environmental NGOs, which brought together representatives from government, fisheries and the tourism sector from both countries.
“Denmark and Sweden must seize this opportunity to lead the way on transboundary MPAs and show Europe how nations can come together to protect unique areas of common interest,” states Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana in Europe. “The Sound is valuable to both nations in terms of its biological diversity and economic importance and jointly establishing a single, large, transboundary marine protected area is the only way to effectively ensure its protection.”
Although many important marine areas in Europe cross political borders, transboundary MPAs remain worryingly rare. Oceana proposes that the Sound is a prime candidate for such protection, given its distinctive shared marine systems, observed marine degradation and ongoing threats, and its importance to key local economies. Currently, about 14% of The Sound is covered by scattered Natura 2000 areas and other small marine reserves, but fragmented and inconsistent aims and management limit their potential to deliver real protection.
Habitats under threat
With nearly 3.8 million people living in the region, the marine environment in the Sound is under intense pressure, from multiple threats that include maritime traffic, sand dredging, land reclamation, and pollution. During scientific expeditions in 2011, 2012, and 2013, Oceana documented the disappearance of fragile habitats such as Haploops and horse mussels, from sites where they were previously found. At the northern extreme of the Sound, a rare bubbling reef was recently identified, which requires protection under the EU’s Habitats Directive.
“Addressing the many threats to the Sound under one comprehensive management plan, covering Danish and Swedish waters, clearly makes sense – both economically and environmentally,” adds Gustavsson.
Photo gallery: The Sound