About the Baltic Sea

The Baltic is the youngest sea on our planet, emerging from the retiring ice masses only some 10-15,000 years ago. But there are 2 other factors which, when combined, make this sea unique to this planet.

Due to its specific geographical, climatic and oceanographic features, the Baltic Sea is highly sensitive to human activities which are taking place both at sea and in its catchment area, which is home to some 85 million people.

Today the Baltic Sea is one of the world's most threatened marine ecosystems. Find out more about this special place and our work to protect the Baltic Sea.

Fast Facts

  • The Baltic Sea is located in Northern Europe. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands.
  • Countries: 9 states surround the Baltic Sea including 8 EU members (Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Russia & Lithuania)
  • Coastal population: 15 million
  • Total sea area: 404,354 km²
  • Average depth: 53 metres
  • Habitat Type: Temperate Shelf and Seas
  • Commercial fish species: Central & SW Baltic: cod, herring, sprat and salmon. N Baltic: pike, perch, white fish and herring.
  • Climate: prolonged cold and dark winters, mild summers with almost 24hr day light
  • Industrial threats: one of the busiest maritime transport routes in the world, carrying 15% of the world's maritime transport
Ekenäs Archipelago National Park on the Baltic Sea, Finland. / ©: Mia Ronka
© Mia Ronka
Although the Baltic Sea appears on a world map as a small sea, it is the planet's second largest body of brackish water, characterised by a delicate mixture of salt water coming in from the North East Atlantic sea and fresh water coming in from rivers, rainfall and infiltration.

Due to its specific geographical, climatic and oceanographic features, the Baltic Sea is highly sensitive to human activities which are taking place both at sea and in its catchment area, which is home to some 85 million people.

Today the Baltic Sea is one of the most threatened marine ecosystems. More than 50% of the commercial fish species are overfished. Eutrophicationaffects 70% of all listed biotopes. Moreover, the health and diversity of all marine species are affected by industrial, municipal and agricultural pollution, as well as increased sea and land-based transport, and continued clearing of forests and drainage of wetlands.

Baltic Sea: a WWF top priority ecoregion in Europe

The action plan agreed by WWF and partner organisations in nine different countries includes integrated land, coastal and marine activities to strengthen the local and regional capacity to achieve sustainable ecosystem-based management of the Baltic Sea's resources. Ecosystem Management is a broad scale approach to biodiversity conservation, it seeks to integrate conservation and development by taking a strategic approach with all stakeholders to develop common goals and mutually supportive activities for the conservation and restoration of natural habitats. Sustainable management will improve ecosystem health and biodiversity while providing social and economic benefits to farming, coastal and fishing communities and sectors such as eco-tourism.

As of May 1, 2004, 8 out of the 9 countries surrounding the Baltic Sea will be members of the European Union, making the Baltic Sea the first (almost) internal sea of the EU. European legislation such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Water Framework Directive and the Common Fisheries Policy are being translated into national legislation in Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. What impact will the accession process have on the Baltic Sea? Will it contribute to increased nutrient load to the Sea as a result of the intensification of agriculture in the accession countries? Or will Baltic fisheries become more sustainable?

WWF is closely monitoring this process and is pro-active in proposing solutions that will work for nature and people. Ever since the UN Stockholm conference on the human environment in 1972, the Baltic region has had a rich tradition of environmental stewardship. If conservation is not delivered in that region, where will it be? The Baltic leaders need to continue taking their responsibility seriously.

Global biodiversity loss and the increasing contamination of water worldwide represent one of the key problems for sustainable development in the 21st century. Successfully addressing the water challenge in the coming century will require extra efforts. WWF is ready to take on the challenge and work together with individuals, communities, governments and the private sector to revive the biological diversity of the Baltic Sea.

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