Brink of Destruction?
March 27, 2014
The Baltic Sea’s ecosystem is on the brink of destruction, warn experts from the international environmental organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Research has shown that some 10 percent of the seabed is already devoid of life, and the whole sea could be “dead” within the next 25-30 years, according to WWF experts.
Who is to blame? The WWF’s Polish office says one of the main factors is eutrophication, or a process whereby water bodies receive excess nutrients that stimulate excessive plant growth. Other factors include chemical pollution, over-fishing, a lack of protected marine areas, invasion by foreign species, and the constantly growing number of ships on the Baltic, the WWF says.
All these problems are the result of poor regulations, and the situation could easily escalate into a disaster, according to the WWF. The situation will continually worsen unless the governments of the nine Baltic Sea region countries take bold steps to save the sea, the WWF says.
The growing number of passenger ships on the Baltic is another factor that threatens the sea. Companies organize hundreds of cruises in large ships every year. Over the next decade or so, the number of ships plying the Baltic Sea is expected to increase by 80 percent, according to the WWF’s Polish office.
The Baltic Sea, as one of the smallest seas in the world and also one surrounded by land, has little opportunity to exchange its waters. This happens once every 25-30 years on average, experts say. Thus pollution remains in the Baltic for a long time.
The WWF warns that an increase in sea traffic poses another serious threat, that of spillage of oil and other dangerous substances into the sea. According to statistics, there is one serious accident every 25 years on the Baltic that results in at least 100 tons of oil being spilled into the sea. One of the Baltic’s biggest disasters happened in 2001 when the transport ship Tern collided with the tanker Baltic Carrier. The result was that 20,000 sea birds got covered in oil.
Ecologists say the condition of the Polish Baltic Sea area is worsening because of the presence of phosphates and nitrates, among other factors. Farmers who use artificial fertilizers are mainly responsible. But a substantial volume of these chemicals also comes from detergents used by households on an everyday basis.