Tag archives for sea

Swedish artists and politicians pick litter all week

The artist Pernilla Andersson, herself living in the Swedish archipelago, is one of the celebrities who encourage people to go out and clean our beaches. Photo: Christian Pohl.

Sweden has a loooong coastline – 2400 kilometers to be more exact. This is actually one of the longest in Europe.
Open sea is of course a blessing in many ways, but for a lot of the communities along the Swedish coast, there are also a problem associated to this: Litter.

In a recent survey, a majority of Sweden’s coastal municipalities stated that waste along their coasts is a big concern for them. People leave their rubbish directly on the beaches, or throw it in the sea, which then brings it in to the beach.
Only in the North Sea, about 200 000 tons of waste are dumped every year. Mostly plastic, but also wood, aluminium cans and glass bottles. Most of these materials take a long time to decompose (plastic can even take from 100 to 1000 years!).
Fulmar birds found in the North Sea have on an average 33 pieces of plastic in their stomachs, and sea mussels also absorb microscopic pieces of plastic – that can end up in the human being eating them.

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No, everything wasn’t better before!

Once in a while it’s good to take a look back in time and realize that some things have actually changed – for the better

Just watch this information film clip from the Swedish authorities in the 1960:s, when littering was seen as one of the biggest threats to the archipelago. The recommendations back then might seem a bit shocking today: “Sink it in the water or burn it in the harbour”.
But, as in all cases,  we can only ask ourselves which of the things that we are doing today that will be looked upon with the same disbelief in 50 years …!

Sjövett means sea sense. Read the whole transcription of the speakers’ text below the film clip.


(When the man has poured his beer:)

“And a few holes in the bottom [of the can] … and it will sink.”

“It already looks like this, but if we don’t deal seriously with littering, our beautiful archipelago will look like this within ten or twenty years.”

“So are there only careless and untidy people who have left this garbage behind? No, most of it is thrown overboard by ordinary, decent people, thinking that ´It doesn’t matter if throw that little thing, nobody will notice it among all the other garbage´. But it’s exactly that little thing – millions of them – that form the large rubbish heaps.
Like this, by means of a few rocks, the garbage kan be sunk beyond the islands, in deep waters. But it’s even better to burn the garbage in the harbour.”

Fighting spilled oil on the Swedish West coast


The rocks of the island Tjörn. Photo: The Swedish Coast Guard.

Last week the biggest oil spill that the Swedish West coast has seen in about 20 years reached the island of Tjörn in the Bohuslän archipelago.

Of course this is one of the things that people of coastal areas fear most, whether you live in Louisiana or Skärhamn  [map]. Now a frantic activity has started to gather the oil, save wildlife and nature.

In the beginning of this week more than 200.000 litres of oil had been removed (update: during the weekend, after one week of work, more than 460.000 litres of oil had been removed), but there can still be a lot left in the waters, and the experts working on the case say the clearing might have to go on until the end of this year. Oiled birds have been taken to the bird central in Gothenburg and other bird centrals are prepared in case of a rush.

At this point it’s not known where the oil spill comes from, but it’s believed it has to do with a collision between two boats outside the Danish coast about 10 days ago.

One slightly comforting detail of this terrible event is that it didn’t happen during springtime. In an article in the Gothenburg newspaper Göteborgs-Posten (article in Swedish), Sverker Evans at the brand new Swedish public authority for our waters and seas says that this oil would have been much worse for the sea would it have come when fish, birds and plants are in a growing phase.
Another factor is the water temperature. When the water is colder it takes longer for the oil to decompose naturally. Now the sea is at least a bit warmer after the summer.

It can nevertheless take years before all traces of the spill are gone. But it will eventually happen, says Sverker Evans. Eight years ago, there was a large oil spill outside the kust of Skåne in the South of Sweden. 40 km of the Swedish coast were affected and there were fears about long-term environmental consequences.
– Now you can’t see any of it, says Evans.


Update: Sweden’s first marine national park, Kosterhavet, might be threatened by the oil (Article in Miljöaktuellt. In Swedish, but can be translated through this page.)


A bird caught by the oil spill. Photo: The Swedish Coast Guard.


Clearing the oil. Photo: The Swedish Coast Guard.




Action against bottom trawling causes controversy

Photo: Greenpeace.

When I was a child, one of the things that made junior school pupils grimace was when we were served cod as lunch at school. But what we perceived as a boring block of dry white fish has become more of an expensive delicacy. Due to overfishing cod is now a rare specie. The total allowable catch for cod fishers has been lowered, but many scientists have called for a total stop in cod fishing.

More problems

Disappearing cod isn’t the only threat to our seas, though. Today the Swedish branch of the environmental organization Greenpeace will drop a large number of boulders in the Kattegat sound between Sweden and Denmark, to prevent bottom trawling and pressure the Swedish government to protect these areas. Greenpeace describes bottom trawling as one of the most destructive ways of fishing, the huge nets swallowing much more than fish, and the metal plates and rubber wheels attached to the nets crushing everything in its way.

Agreement between Sweden and Denmark

Sweden’s agriculture and fisheries minister Eskil Erlandsson is criticizing the action and says it is threatening the bilateral agreement that Sweden is about to make with Denmark regarding a total stop of cod fishing in some of the areas where the cod spawns. In a radio news show this morning I heard a heated debate between the minister and a representative from Greenpeace. It will be interesting to follow the continuation.

Sailing in plastic particles

Fresh winds on the Baltic Sea.

I have just come back from another encounter with the Baltic Sea. Sailing is something entirely new for me, but when my friends told me they had rented a sailing-boat for a week I decided to join them for a couple of days. Although being slightly frightened by the millions of ropes, an always threatening boom and the boat sometimes seeming to turn over in the waves, I must admit that sailing definitely has its advantages. It’s incredible to glide over the water, almost in total silence and without using any other fuel than the wind.

Unfortunately, and as I have written here before, the Baltic Sea isn’t in best shape. Now scientists have found lots of tiny particles, invisible to the naked eye, floating in the seas around Sweden. Many of them seem to come from the wearing of roads and car tyres, but also from textiles. Other particles could have their origin in boat paint and plastic.

The plastic fibres and particles can not only be harmful for the inhabitants of the sea, but might also contain toxic substances injurious to the environment that end up in fish, and in the long run also affect humans.
One of the marine biologists who have made the study, Fredrik Norén, says to the Swedish radio that more plastic materials must be degradable, so that they don’t leave particles in the nature after being used.