The marine conservation organisation releases a report on the findings of an expedition in the area, poorly protected yet home to a rare mix of species
Oceana proposes that Finland and Sweden create a transboundary marine protected area in the Quark, as current protections are patchy and do not guarantee the preservation of this unique area. The Quark (Kvarken in Swedish, Merenkurkku in Finnish) is one of a kind in Europe, because of its unusual geological formations and its mix of marine and freshwater biodiversity. Oceana will present a report with the findings of its research expedition and conservation proposals for the area in a meeting with stakeholders to be held today in Vaasa, Finland.
“The Quark holds a rare combination of marine, brackish and freshwater species, and it is fascinating to find such different wildlife thriving in the same place” said Ricardo Aguilar, director of Research and Expeditions with Oceana in Europe. “Climate change and other human impacts are, however, threatening this natural laboratory, and it is vital that Sweden and Finland cooperate to preserve it. Oceana believes that an international marine protected area would be the simplest and most effective way to protect the Quark”.
The Quark is home to 71 species that are nationally threatened or requiring protection under EU legislation, including grayling (Thymallus thymallus), which is Critically Endangered in the Baltic Sea. The area also hosts an array of habitat types, including those that are threatened or are recognised biodiversity hotspots. Many fish species spawn in these waters, such as perch, pike, zander and Baltic herring, and part of the Quark is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Nearly one-third of the waters of the Quark are covered by assorted types of marine protected areas, but many of them do not entail any measures to protect marine life. For this reason, Oceana proposes the establishment of a transboundary MPA, underpinned by a joint management plan addressing all of the key habitats, species, and the threats that they face. This MPA could be a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve or a nature park, or even two national MPAs with a joint management plan.
The MPA would ideally comprise different zones with varying levels of protections. Specific measures should include restrictions on dredging in fladas (lagoons) that are relatively pristine or where fish spawn; banning of boat traffic and anchoring in very shallow areas with fine substrate; and temporal restrictions on recreational fishing for top predators like pike or perch during their peak mating season (from March/April to May/June).
Oceana’s proposal is the main output of a project made possible thanks to the generous support of the Svenska Postkod Stiftelsen. In 2018, Oceana carried out a three-week research expedition in the Quark, following shorter at-sea campaigns in the area in 2011 and 2013. Surveys were done in both the Finnish and Swedish sides, via SCUBA divers, a drop video camera, and grab sampling. The research documented a total of 70 species (one-third of all macrospecies known in the Quark) and ten types of habitats, including lesser-known ecosystems such as offshore reefs.