Discover our target regions: The Baltic Sea

Unlock the secrets of the Baltic Sea

The Baltic Sea is a semi-enclosed inland body of brackish water connected to the North Sea through narrow straits. Located in Northern Europe, the Baltic region consists of the core Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, along with EU countries that border the sea: Denmark, Finland, Germany, Poland, Sweden. It spans an area of approximately 415,000 kms2 and has a maximum depth of 460 meters. The coastline of the Baltic Sea is wonderfully irregular, dotted with 20,000 to 30,000 peninsulas, islands, islets and skerries; these contribute to the region’s scenic beauty and ecological significance for biodiversity, providing important habitats for wildlife while offering opportunities for recreation and tourism.

It’s generally cold in the Baltic Sea region, with temperatures varying from maritime temperate in the west to continental in the east. In winter, snow usually covers the ground and ice cover forms on the sea surface, particularly in the northern and eastern parts. Summers are relatively mild, with temperatures ranging from cool to warm, supporting diverse ecosystems and recreational activities along the coastlines.

© Hendrik Morkel

The Baltic Sea region has historically been a melting pot of cultures, from Viking heritage melding with Nordic influences blending with Baltic and Slavic traditions evident in the region’s architecture, languages, cuisine, and customs. The populations around the Baltic Sea are diverse, encompassing both major urban centers and major seaports on its shores – Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Gdansk, Tallinn, Riga, Klaipeda – scattered amongst mostly rural and isolated areas of the Baltic region. Given its proximity to the sea, culture along the Baltic coast is deeply intertwined with maritime traditions and seafaring heritage. Fishing communities, port cities, and coastal villages have long relied on the sea for sustenance, livelihoods, and cultural identity. The region’s cuisine, folklore, festivals, and crafts often reflect this maritime influence.

What are the challenges?

Unfortunately, the Baltic Sea is facing increasing challenges.

  • Non-native species: The Baltic Sea region is characterized by rich wetlands, coastal meadows, and estuaries that provide crucial habitats for migratory birds, waterfowl, and other wildlife. With over 100 Baltic Sea ports handling notable freight and passenger traffic, ballast water-mediated species introductions pose a threat to native biodiversity and ecosystem stability in the Baltic Sea. Compliance with ballast water management practices to mitigate the spread of invasive species remains a challenge.
  • Eutrophication is still a major problem in the Baltic Sea. Excess nutrient inputs to the marine environment increases phytoplankton development, which reduces light levels in the water, contributes to depleting oxygen reserves at the bottom, and triggers a series of other ecosystem changes. While inputs of nutrients to the sea have decreased significantly, targets for maximum allowable inputs have not yet been achieved in all basin.
  • Maritime traffic: Shipping accidents, and oil spills also pose risks to the Baltic Sea environment, including the potential for pollution, habitat damage, and marine accidents.
  • Unsustainable fishing practices, including overfishing, bycatch, and illegal fishing, remain a threat to the health and resilience of fish stocks and marine ecosystems in the Baltic Sea, which can have serious socio-economic impacts on fishing communities and food security.

© Shutterstock

What are the solutions?

But all is not lost, there are currently initiatives underway to protect, preserve and sustainably manage the Baltic Sea!

The EU Blue School Network is under-represented in the Baltic Region compared to the rest of Europe. According to the Maritime Forum of the EU4Ocean Coalition, 29 schools have joined the network since 2020.

However, Baltic schools have been involved in other sustainability and climate-change initiatives like the Green School and the UNESCO school networks that support several activities that overlap. ECO Schools in Denmark (Folkeskole), Finland (ENSI), Germany (Kultusministerkonferenz), and Sweden (Haga Declaration) support frameworks that contribute to students’ understanding of man’s interaction with nature and support education around sustainability and climate-change issues

  • Nutrient pollution is a major water quality problem in the Baltic Sea and complete data on the waterborne nutrient inputs via rivers is particularly needed to address this problem. The Narva WatMan project in Estonia developed a calculation methodology for water quality and quantity and to make recommendations for more effective measures to reduce pollution loads.

  • The Baltic Sea Project is an international school network led by Finland aimed to raise students ‘awareness of environmental issues in the Baltic Sea region and to develop students’ skills in studying environmental change.

© Shutterstock

SHORE’s Country Hubs

The SHORE project in Estonia, through its national Country Hub, provides the needed mechanism to create linkages amongst teachers and students with the rest of Europe to collaborate on common challenges.

In Poland, through its national Country Hub, SHORE gives the opportunity to raise awareness on Ocean Literacy along whole Polish Territory. Till now mostly schools and citizens in northern part of the country were interested in that topic. SHORE brings Ocean literacy to other parts of the country.

In both countries, the SHORE project aims to increase the number of Blue Schools by promoting Ocean Literacy and actively engaging with students, teachers, and schools.

Do you want to find out more about SHORE and the Baltic Sea?

Contact our Estonian or Polish Country Hubs!