Marine Protected Areas

One effective way to protect marine life is to create marine protected areas. Inside these areas fish stocks and marine habitats have a chance to recover and rebuild. Oceana has singled out 12 ecologically important areas in the Baltic Sea and Kattegat, that protected could benefit the whole region.

Several scientific studies show that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) can enhance biodiversity and benefit sea life and habitats, by providing a place to rebuild and flourish. Areas facing reduced pressure, where fisheries have been banned or restricted, have healthier communities and often host fish that are significantly bigger and more plentiful than those in unprotected areas. This increase in productivity often creates a spillover effect to neighboring areas. This is because well managed MPAs are refuges for marine life and protect parts of the oceans from destructive fishing practices and other harmful activities. But the areas set aside as MPAs need to be large enough to minimize human caused stress factors as much as possible.

Currently around 12 percent of the Baltic Sea is protected, mainly under the European Union’s Natura 2000 network. In addition, marine national parks and other coastal protected areas exist. Most of these sites, however, are poorly or not at all managed. Only about 13 percent of the MPAs actually have any kind of management plan. In other areas – and sometimes even inside areas with management plans – destructive fishing, fisheries with high by-catch rates, dredging and other unsustainable activities are still common and allowed.  To safeguard biodiversity, a minimum of 30 percent of the Baltic Sea should be designated as MPAs, coupled with comprehensive management plans.

Based on our expedition findings, Oceana proposes the creation of 13 new MPAs in the Baltic Sea. These areas include offshore waters and host habitats and species that are not sufficiently protected, despite being vulnerable to many human activities, in particular bottom trawling. Learn more in our proposals.