Tomorrow, on World Oceans Day, Oceana is launching a month-long Baltic Sea expedition. The international marine conservation group, which conducted expeditions focused on deeper parts of the sea in 2011 and 2012, has dedicated this mission to studying the Baltic coastline, and particularly Sweden, Denmark, Poland and Finland, where a number of areas with particularly interesting ecosystems are worth investigating.
Biological diversity in the Baltic region is unique as it has specialized to live in a very uncommon sea, but it is facing threats from all directions. Nutrient spills, overfishing and discarding, the practice of throwing dead fish back into the sea, are putting enormous pressure on local ecosystems. Furthermore, current marine protected areas are so poorly managed that in some cases destructive fishing practices are commonly allowed within their boundaries.
“We are not here to promote a doom and gloom scenario that the Baltic Sea is dying, but to push for concrete policy changes to prevent further deterioration and contribute to the recovery process of this unique body of water”, says Xavier Pastor, head of the expedition and executive director of Oceana in Europe. ”The best way to do that is by providing scientific facts about the reality in the Baltic Sea, and that is what we know how to do”.
A team of divers, marine scientists and experts, using in some cases an underwater robot, will gather data which will be used to strengthen Oceana’s arguments in the struggle to create new and better managed marine protected areas. The expedition will also document illegal fishing, which is unfortunately quite common in the region.
“Baltic Sea countries have been among the frontrunners in setting ambitious fisheries and conservation targets. Nevertheless, many of the existing policies are poorly implemented, and a common excuse for this failure is the lack of comprehensive knowledge of this sea. With our work we aim to fill-in some of the existing gaps and provide tools to implement the existing agreements,” added Hanna Paulomäki, head of Oceana’s Baltic Sea office in Copenhagen.
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Oceana has also teamed up with other local NGO’s, including FISH and Coalition Clean Baltic, on Race for the Baltic, a bicycle campaign initiated by Zennstrom Philantropies. This three month journey will take cyclists 3,500 kilometers around the Baltic coastline to raise awareness and collect signatures to support actions to restore the environmental health of the Baltic Sea.
Oceana is the largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation. It’s multinational European team is dedicated to reversing the decline of Europe’s marine environment and rebuilding fish stocks so as to create a truly sustainable industry. Oceana’s research and policy proposals for the Baltic Sea have been used by governments and HELCOM in drawing up policy guidelines.