Critical Situation for the Swedish Seas

17 October, 2023

The situation for fish, birds and seals in the Swedish seas remains critical.

We fish too much and release too many harmful substances, says Mats Svensson at the Norwegian Sea and Water Authority.

Seals, porpoises, fish and seabirds are examples of those who are not doing so well today, according to the Swedish Sea and Water Authority. Photo: Heribert Proepper/AP/TT Arcive picture

Most marine mammals such as seals and porpoises, seabirds and marine fish are in poor condition. The burden on the marine environment is overall too great, according to the review by the Swedish Maritime and Water Authority (Hav).

New for this year is that the authority has also assessed how underwater noise affects marine life. Both the continuous that comes from above all ship traffic and the short-term from explosions affect life negatively.

This applies not least to porpoises, which are very sensitive to sound. There we have seen that areas where the number increased have now decreased again due to noise. They get stressed easily and sting. But even cod is negatively affected by underwater noise, says Mats Svensson, head of the authority’s marine management department.

Almost half of the assessed sea basins reach good environmental status for the impulsive underwater noise. Only the northernmost sea basins in the Baltic Sea reach good environmental status for continuous noise.

Lighter for monkfish

But for nine unusual fish populations, for example halibut and monkfish, positive trends are visible in the North Sea.

There is a chance that these species will recover in the future, provided that exploitation is reduced to sustainable levels. The problem is that when we get a stock that is doing better, we often increase the fishing pressure and then we are back again. There is often a lack of long-term patience for the stock to recover.

Even if the levels of certain dangerous substances, for example flame retardants and DDT, have decreased over a longer period of time, it is not enough.

Too hot for the salmon

In addition, climate change affects life in the marine environment. As an example, significantly less salmon migrated up Swedish rivers than expected.

-This is probably due to the fact that the temperature in the Baltic Sea was four degrees higher than the average during the period when they were to migrate up, says Mats Svensson.

It is the third time that Hav has assessed the environmental condition in Swedish sea areas. The assessment is part of the work to implement the EU’s marine environment directive in Sweden.

On October 23 to 24, the EU’s fisheries ministers will meet to determine the quotas for next year’s fishing. According to a proposal from the European Commission, all directed fishing for the Baltic herring in the central Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia should be stopped next year. The Tidö parties have announced that they are critical of the proposal.

Text: Petra Hedbom/TT
Photo: Heribert Proepper/AP/TT

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