Sunday, 25 December 2011

Oceana Pushes to Protect 3,500 Km2 of the Baltic Sea

Crucial elements of the Baltic Sea's threatened marine biodiversity are completely unprotected

Oceana, the largest international marine conservation organisation has recently published a report on biodiversity and marine habitats, proposing nine areas totalling 3,500 km2 for inclusion in the current network of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the Baltic Sea. These areas, in Sweden, Finland and Denmark, identified during Oceana's extensive two month research expedition in the spring of 2011, all have specifically important biodiversity that must be protected from human activities, for the Baltic Sea to recover from its current critical state.

The nine proposed areas include offshore waters and host habitats, communities and species that are not sufficiently covered by the current network of MPAs. Some of the habitats documented by Oceana have not been described in the Baltic Sea before such as sponge aggregations and special types of coral gardens in the Kattegat and in the Sound. These habitats and communities are vulnerable to many human activities and in particular to bottom trawling.

"Biodiversity in the Baltic Sea is under enormous stress from pollution and destructive fisheries and the removal of sediments by dredging. The new areas proposed by Oceana represent elements of this biodiversity that are currently unprotected," says Niklas Zennström, Entrepreneur and founder of Zennstöm Philantrophies, one of the funders of Oceana's Baltic Sea project.

"Coupled with effective management of human activities, the establishment of MPAs is an important mechanism to support a healthier marine environment and as a consequence sustainable fisheries", added Anne Schroeer, Oceana Baltic Sea Project Manager.

Currently, 12 per cent of the Baltic Sea is covered by MPAs. To safeguard biodiversity, a minimum of 30 per cent of the Baltic Sea should be effectively protected. This means that besides legal protection, the areas must also be properly managed.. Many of these habitats can only recover with the immediate adoption of protective measures, which would benefit not only the benthic communities inside protected areas but also commercial fisheries with enhanced fish stocks.

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