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Protection of marine biodiversity

© Metsähallitus 2005

The characteristics of the Baltic Sea, such as low salinity and a number of environmental problems, also pose a challenge to marine environment.

Several underwater habitat types are endangered

More knowledge is required of underwater environment and no precise data exists on the occurrence and abundance of habitat types and species. The Finnish Inventory Programme for the Underwater Marine Environment (VELMU) has been mapping the diversity of the underwater marine environment, thereby generating knowledge aimed at the protection of this environment and to ensure the sustainable use of sea areas.

Finland's first assessment of threatened habitat types (2008) covered 12 underwater habitats. Red algae and eelgrass communities, and rough stonewort meadows, were classified as endangered natural habitats. Mainly occurring on the sandy seafloor, eelgrass communities and rough stonewort meadows are natural habitats for which Finland is responsible. Their poor condition is therefore particularly alarming. In this context, responsibility refers to the fact that a significant or very significant number of European examples of the natural habitat in question are located in Finland.

Completed in 2010, the last assessment of threatened species was insufficient regarding species found in the Baltic Sea. One of our most endangered species is the harbour porpoise; a recovery plan has been adopted for the protection of this species within the Baltic Sea.

The grey seal population has grown, but the Baltic seal’s situation is alarming, particularly in the Archipelago Sea and the Gulf of Finland. In 2001, Finland established seven seal protection areas, mainly for the conservation of the grey seal. A shared maintenance plan has been prepared for both seal species.

In 2013, the Baltic Marine Environment Commission (HELCOM) completed a “red list” of endangered species living in the Baltic Sea.

Aiming to build a network of conservation areas

The Ministry of the Environment aims to establish an ecologically unified network of conservation areas in coastal and sea areas. Finland has several sea and coastal conservation areas, including five national parks and many other conservation areas located on state-owned land, in water areas and on privately-owned land. 

The Natura 2000 network has increased the number of conservation areas located at sea. The network was complemented in 2012, by adding five open-sea areas protecting underwater habitats. These are cold water reefs and underwater sand banks located in the farthest reaches of their areas of occupancy.

The most important Natura 2000 sea areas are also listed as Baltic Sea Protected Areas by the Baltic Marine Environment Commission. Creating a network of conservation areas fulfils the objectives laid down in the Convention on Biological Diversity, concerning a comprehensive network of conservation areas located at sea.

Published 2014-11-10 at 14:23, updated 2014-11-10 at 14:24