The Baltic Sea appears vast when looking at it from the shore but on a map it is only a small body of water separated from the oceans. While we have lived here for thousands of years and the sea is familiar to us, it still remains foreign to a certain extent. The surface of the sea has been seen by most but within the depth of it lies the Terra Incognita - explored less than the surface of the Moon. Even though all of us need the sea, we often forget the needs of the sea itself.
Both sea creatures and we, the people still living on the edge of the waters, need the sea to be healthy. However, for the past half a century the sea has been continually poisoned and overfed. Many of us are familiar with the dangerous chemicals that have been poisoning the oceans: DDT, PCB, dioxins. Fortunately, today DDT and PCB have been banned in our catchment areas and dioxide emissions have also been reduced. The sea is gradually cleansing itself from these hazardous substances. This is also confirmed by the good health of our white-tailed eagles and seals that used to be severely threatened by these pollutants. Even though not all hazardous substances are diminishing, the biggest problem today is, in fact, over-feeding the sea with nutrients.
Over-feeding the sea (eutrophication) is caused by two important plant nutrients: nitrogen and phosphorus. Even though we have been able to reduce their inflow to the sea, it has not been sufficient. Imagine bringing someone to near death by overfeeding them with a quadruple portion of vitamins and nutrients. When you now reduce their food intake by a quarter, you might think that everything is OK. But in reality, you are still overfeeding the poor soul with a triple portion and haven´t, in fact, done anything else than slightly postponed their premature death. Our sea is in serious need of a diet, just like the scientists have concluded and governments have agreed upon. ELF stands for implanting these given promises.
A big part of the nitrogen and phosphorus causing eutrophication is derived from the land. Flush toilets, industrial farms, industries and fertilizers all contribute to this process. As significant progress has been made in treating household wastewater, our main focus is currently on reducing nonpoint source input from agricultural sources. Hence, ELF also deals with the environmental impacts of the European Union´s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Marine biodiversity can only be preserved by using an ecosystem-based approach and putting enough areas under protection. The sea is an extremely important habitat complex with, among other things, migratory routes of birds and bats running over it and routes of fish, seals and porpoises running through it. All of this has to be taken into account in marine use planning and in developing the conservation network.
Since 9 different countries share the coastline of the Baltic Sea, it is only natural to work together for its conservation. ELF cooperates with other countries in several marine fields in the context of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Baltic Ecoregion Programme (BEP).
ELF is involved in the following fields:
Protecting marine areas and planning more rational use of marine areas
Eutrophication - the damage caused by nutrient overload