Jump to content

Protection of marine biodiversity

Sukeltaja
© Metsähallitus 2005

The special characteristics of the Baltic Sea, including low salinity, and the quite large number of environmental problems in the region pose challenges to the marine ecosystem as well.

More and better information on underwater ecosystems

Thanks to the Finnish Inventory Programme for the Underwater Marine Environment (VELMU), we now have a much better and more comprehensive understanding of the presence and abundance of species and habitats than in 2004 when the programme was started. The information produced by the programme can be used both in the protection of marine natural environments and in their sustainable use.

The second assessment of the threat status of habitat types in Finland published in 2018 covers 42 underwater habitats, while in the previous assessment that dates back to 2008 the number of underwater habitats was 12. The assessment was based on the HELCOM Underwater Biotopes classification for the Baltic Sea (HUB). Data collected in the VELMU Inventory Programme was also used. Habitat types classified as endangered (EN) comprise benthic habitats characterised by algal species Fucus radicans and Fucus vesiculosus, read algae, mussel species Unionidae, and amphipod species Monoporeia affinis and/or Pontoporeia femorata, as well as coastal estuaries.

Habitat types assessed as Vulnerable (VU) comprise benthic habitats characterised by the common eelgrass Zostera marina, sheltered benthic habitats characterised by Characeae, Baltic Sea seasonal ice, and fladas (coastal lagoons) and glo-lakes (coastal lagoons). Altogether 4 habitat types were assessed as Near Threatened (NT) and 14 as Least Concern (LC). The number of habitat types classified as Data Deficient that were not assessed was 14. Eutrophication is still the main cause of the endangerment of Baltic Sea species and habitats.

The most recent assessment of threatened species, the Red List of Finnish Species, was published in 2019. Thanks to the VELMU Inventory Programme, there was more data available on the Baltic Sea species than in the previous assessment in 2010. This was the first time when the assessment covered almost all algal species present in the coastal regions of Finland. However, there are still gaps in the data, which is why e.g. more than a third of the species of macroalgae could not be assessed.

The most recent assessment of threatened species, the Red List of Finnish Species, was published in 2019. Thanks to the VELMU Inventory Programme, there was more data available on the Baltic Sea species than in the previous assessment in 2010. This was the first time when the assessment covered almost all algal species present in the coastal regions of Finland. However, there are still gaps in the data, which is why e.g. more than a third of the species of macroalgae could not be assessed.

As a general observation, in aquatic environments comprising both the Baltic Sea and freshwater habitats the number of threatened species is smaller than e.g. in forests, rural biotopes and cultural habitats. The Global Red List species in Finland include the Baltic water-plantain (Alisma wahlenbergii), which is classified as Vulnerable (VU) in the Finnish Red List. Species classified as Critically Endangered in Finland include the Baltic Sea grayling and eel. In the Global Red List the Baltic Sea harbour porpoise population is also classified as Critically Endangered (CR). The Recovery Plan for Baltic Harbour Porpoises was published in 2009. In Finland it is considered as a vagrant species that is not covered by the assessment (Not Applicable, NA).

The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) completed a Red List of endangered species living in the Baltic Sea in 2013.

The grey seal population has grown, and the population of the Baltic ringed seal in the Gulf of Bothnia is also growing. Instead, in the Archipelago Sea and the Gulf of Finland the status of the Baltic ringed seal is alarming. Finland established seven conservation areas for seals in 2001, mainly for the protection of the grey seal. A shared management plan for both seal species was published in 2007.

  • Seals (Natural Resources Institute Finland)

Network of conservation areas

The Ministry of the Environment aims to establish an ecologically coherent network of conservation areas in the coastal and sea areas. Finland has several marine and coastal conservation areas, including five national parks and other conservation areas both on state-owned lands and waters and on private lands.

The Natura 2000 network has increased the number of marine conservation areas. In 2012 the network was complemented by five open-sea areas with the aim to protect underwater habitats. The sites concerned are reefs and underwater sandbanks located at the extremity of their ranges. In 2018 the network was again complemented by areas in the Archipelago Sea, the Tulliniemi bird protection area and the Södra Sandbäck area.

The most important marine areas in the Natura 2000 network are also listed as coastal and marine Baltic Sea protected areas, i.e. HELCOM Marine Protected Areas (MPA), by the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission. Creating a network of Marine Protected Areas fulfils the objectives in the Convention on Biological Diversity concerning a comprehensive network of conservation areas located at sea.

Published 2014-11-10 at 14:23, updated 2020-11-23 at 10:08