/ ©: WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme

Baltic Sea

A little salt

The Baltic is the youngest sea on our planet, emerging from the retiring ice masses only some 10,000-15,000 years ago.

It is also the world's largest body of brackish water (it has more salinity than freshwater but not as much as seawater), connected to the ocean waters of the North Sea only through the narrow and shallow straits between Denmark and Sweden.

This unique ecosystem is home to a diverse array of species, such as Baltic ringed seals and harbour porpoises. Fish species include cod, herring and salmon. And tens of millions of migratory birds stop here twice a year, including the Arctic tern, divers and long-tailed duck.

A lot of problems

But, the Baltic Sea is one of the world’s most threatened marine environments.

Overfishing, oil spills and land-based pollution, particularly high levels of nutrients, from agriculture and industry continue to negatively impact this fragile sea.

WWF and partner organizations in the nine coastal countries bordering the Baltic Sea are working together to address these threats.

Through innovative solutions, we aim to improve the sea's health and biodiversity while providing long-term social and economic benefits to farming, coastal and fishing communities.
 / ©: WWF Sweden
The health of the Baltic Sea has long been viewed solely as an environmental concern, but this report shows that it must be viewed as an economic and social concern as well. Failing to restore the Baltic Sea will not only further impair the Baltic Sea environment but the ability to add these jobs and economic growth.
© WWF Sweden

Turning adversity into opportunity: A business plan for the Baltic Sea

'Turning Adversity to Opportunity for the Baltic Sea' is a report, built upon the ‘Baltic Scenarios’  initiative, produced for WWF by the Boston Consulting Group demonstrating the economic and social benefits of choosing a better future scenario for the Baltic today, tomorrow and in 20 years.
Baltic Sea. Dragsfard, Finland.
© Mauri Rautkari / WWF

The Baltic Sea is one of the busiest maritime areas in the world.

In its report ‘Future Trends in the Baltic Sea’ WWF highlighted the growth projections for a number of sectors in the Baltic Sea region, almost all of which are set to grow substantially over the next 20 years – some by as much as several hundred percent. This growth will increase demand for the limited space and resources of the sea, and could consequently lead to increased conflicts within maritime sectors, between sectors, and between human uses and nature.
 / ©: WWF Sweden
Future Trends in the Baltic region
© WWF Sweden

Future Trends

  • Click here to see the Interactive map of future trends in the Baltic Sea

Protecting Baltic Sea seals

 / ©: Charles Hood / WWF-UK
The UK hotspots were chosen for their diverse populations of wildlife, which include grey seals.
© Charles Hood / WWF-UK
Seals were once found in large numbers in the Baltic Sea. But decades of pollution and hunting have seen their numbers rapidly drop.

In the early 20th century, the ringed seal population of the Baltic Sea was estimated at 180,000. Today, there are just 7,000-10,000. Grey and harbour seal numbers are also in a precarious state. Although some populations have slightly increased, overall they continue to be threatened.

In Finland, WWF is working to protect Baltic seals by establishing marine protected areas along the coast. The species are also protected through legislation by various countries within their range.

The water is not safe for people or animals when the algal bloom arrives in the Baltic Sea. / ©: Anders Modig
The water is not safe for people or animals when the algal bloom arrives in the Baltic Sea.
© Anders Modig
The water is not safe for people or animals when the algal bloom arrives in the Baltic Sea.

Where is the Baltic Sea?

The Baltic Sea is highlighted below in blue.

View Regional Priorities in a larger map

Facts & Figures

    • 9 countries surround the Baltic Sea: Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Russia and Lithuania.
    • The Baltic Sea occupies a basin formed by glacial erosion during the last few Ice Ages.
    • The Baltic Sea's salinity is much lower than that of ocean water
    • The sea is about 1,60km (1,000 miles) long; an average of 193km (120 miles) wide; and an average of 55m (180 feet) deep.
    • The surface area is about 377,000km2 (145,522 sq mi) and the volume is about 20,000km3 (5040 cubic mi).
    • The periphery amounts to about 8,000km (4,968 miles) of coastline.
    • At the time of the Roman Empire, the Baltic Sea was known as the Mare Suebicum or Mare Sarmaticum; since the Viking age, the Scandinavians have called it the Eastern Lake.

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