"The North Sea and the Baltic Sea must have a sustainable productive capacity, and biological diversity must be preserved. Coasts and archipelagos must be characterized by a high degree of biological diversity and a wealth of recreational, natural and cultural assets. Industry, recreation and other utilization of the seas, coasts and archipelagos must be compatible with the promotion of sustainable development. Particularly valuable areas must be protected against encroachment and other disturbance."
The marine environment is affected by fishing, the spread of toxic pollutants, and emissions of nutrients that end up in the sea and cause eutrophication. Alien species, for example from ships’ ballast water or fish farms, can also become established there. All these things disturb biodiversity and important habitats, affecting marine production of food and other key ecosystem services.
Seas, coasts and archipelagos offer a wide range of opportunities for recreation and a rich cultural heritage, values that can also be adversely affected by human activities. Archipelago and coastal environments come under pressure, for instance, from heavy development, settlements, shipping and boating. Cultural heritage, in the form of lighthouses, boathouses, meadows and pastures, is harder to conserve in areas affected by depopulation, while there is a risk of it suffering damage where there are concentrations of second homes and large-scale tourism. Growing settlements and traffic also reduce recreational access.
What are the challenges?
There is still much to be done to achieve good environmental status in our coastal and offshore waters. The transboundary nature of the sea means that action is needed both in Sweden and internationally to reduce emissions and the negative impacts of activities that make for a poorer environment. Cooperation to improve the marine environment is for example taking place under the EU’s Marine Strategy and Water Framework Directives and the Helsinki and OSPAR Conventions.
The design of EU fisheries and agricultural policies is also important, as is protection of areas of significant natural and cultural heritage interest. Conservation of cultural environments also depends crucially on people being able to live and make a living in coastal and archipelago areas. Another key factor in safeguarding both natural and cultural values is improved knowledge.