Based on the findings of three expeditions, Oceana has proposed 13 areas of high ecological importance to become new marine protected areas in the Baltic Sea. Most of them host species and breeding grounds classified by HELCOM as threatened and vulnerable. Species like the rare Haploops crustacean, and the blue mussel-like horse mussel, though not easily recognizable by most, plays an important role in the ecosystem and must be protected.
“We have documented red-listed species and habitats in most of the areas we visited over the course of our expeditions. Despite the severe state of the Baltic Sea, this gives us hope, but it also underscores the need to safeguard the marine environment immediately”, says Hanna Paulomäki, project manager at Oceana’s Baltic Sea office.
Today, around 12 percent of the Baltic Sea is covered by marine protected areas. Though an impressive figure, this amount of coverage doesn’t guarantee adequate protection. In fact, around half of the current protected areas lack any management plans, and destructive activities, like fishing with bottom trawls, are hardly ever restricted.
For the past three years, Oceana has conducted annual expeditions in the Baltic Sea and Kattegat, documenting the sensitive and unique underwater life of the region. The data collected was used to put together the 13 comprehensive conservation proposals to protect it.
“Nowadays, several vulnerable species and habitats are insufficiently protected, which threatens the entire Baltic Sea ecosystem. Our proposals are therefore meant to be an appeal, invitation and inspiration for the countries around the Baltic Sea to protect sea life, so that future generations can also enjoy it”, added Christina Abel, marine biologist at Oceana.
The proposals and corresponding species lists are available on Oceana’s website. High-definition video footage and images are available for interested media and other stakeholders upon request.