This piece was first published in the Finnish newspaper Ålandstidningen 11/7, it has been translated for this blog.
Imagine this view on a sunny day: blue skies, the sun shining and glimmering on the surface of the sea. But zoom in a bit closer, and you’ll see an entirely different picture: murky waters, and algae blooms suffocating kelp forests, and small fish in shallow waters gasping for air. This is the current reality we are facing: wide-spread human activities have led to the decline of the Baltic Sea and other oceans globally.
Blue Growth is a new strategy recently launched in the EU, wherein seas and oceans are seen as drivers of the European economy. It represents about 5.4 million jobs and is expected to generate a gross added value of almost €500 billion a year. Shipping, coastal and cruise tourism, offshore wind, shipbuilding, aquaculture and blue biotechnologies are considered to be some of the most promising sectors of the Baltic Sea maritime economy.
Some days ago I took part in Oceana’s coastal expedition on the Finnish side of Quark, collecting information about the underwater world in the area with a video robot and scuba dives. We happened to pass by a small harbor just as two medium size trawlers were landing herring on to two big trucks. It was clear that the catches were going to a close-by mink food factory.
The Baltic Sea has the oddly contradictory record of being a frontrunner both in good and bad – on one hand it holds the unfortunate record of being one of the most polluted seas in the world, but on the other, countries in the region have ambitious political plans for its restoration which, if implemented, could put it on the path to recovery. The Helsinki Convention (HELCOM) has been setting environmental targets for the restoration of this sea for almost 40 years already.