Oceana unveils new evidence that Baltic Sea is heading towards collapse unless urgent, effective protection measures are implemented

Never before seen images show areas still rich in wildlife and others, dead and devastated from the lack of protection measures and destructive fishing practices, like bottom trawling.

Press Release Date: May 9, 2011

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

Oceana experts are in Copenhagen to present first findings from expedition

Today, Oceana, the international marine conservation organization, unveiled never before seen images of the Baltic seabed that highlight the devastating impact of overfishing, destructive fishing practices and pollution on the marine environment. The organization, which is currently engaging in an expedition to document the state of this sea, with a team of marine scientists, professional divers, underwater photographers, as well as an underwater robot (ROV), is calling for urgent and effective protection measures.

The images, which clearly reveal the dangerously poor state of the sea, serve as a stark reminder that there can be no further delay in actions to stop the acute degradation of the unique ecosystems of the Baltic, from pollution, overfishing and destructive practices, like bottom trawling and dredging.

”Some of the pictures and ROV videos are shocking and alarming. We have seen areas where most life has been destroyed. But we have also found areas rich in life and unique biodiversity, and according to evidence in other parts of Europe and the rest of the world, these areas could be preserved if an effective network of Marine Protected Areas was created and properly managed,” says Xavier Pastor, Oceana Europe Executive Director and expedition leader. It is clear that the governments need to act right now with protection measures if we want to stop the destruction of the Baltic Sea.”

Oceana calls for the better management of Baltic Sea resources, including fisheries and management of already designated protected areas. Today about 12% of the area is set aside for protection, but proper management plans and measures are mostly lacking. There is also an acute need to enlarge the existing network of protected areas to ensure that the last areas with functioning ecosystems are properly acknowledged. Oceana urges that a ban on bottom trawling be put in place, for the sake of the biodiversity, and supports designating more no-take zones. Not only would this benefit the ecosystems of the Baltic Sea, but based on many studies, it would also benefit commercial fisheries which would experience higher catches in surrounding areas.

“The threatened species and habitats need to be protected with strict management measures and a ban on destructive activities like bottom trawling and dredging. The Baltic Sea ecosystems have to recover and reach a good environmental status by 2020 as requested by the law,” says Anne Schroeer, Project Manager of the Oceana Baltic Project. ”Our investigations give us a glimpse into what the Baltic Sea could look like should the balance and function of the ecosystems be restored – and how bad it will be if the politicians in the Baltic countries do not live up to their responsibilities and obligations.”

Over the past four weeks, Oceana has been documenting the biodiversity in the Baltic Sea, and the threats to its ecosystems, surveying the Danish and Swedish waters, including Kattegat, Oeresund and the Swedish coast. The team of scientists, divers and photographers has documented many threatened communities, like sea pen and haploops communities, as well as mussel reefs and macrophyte communities, which form important feeding and breeding grounds for a number of species. In these places also commercially important, but currently threatened fish were spotted as well, including cod (Gadus morhua), whiting (Merlangius merlangius) and several flatfish (Limanda limanda, Pleuronectes platessa).

Oceana’s expedition onboard the Hanse Explorer will continue until 4 June, 2011. The final results and findings, including policy recommendations and concrete proposals for new marine protected areas, will be published in autumn.

Learn more: Oceana´s Baltic Sea Project