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The Baltic Sea – who cares...

Sustainable seas

The Baltic Sea – who cares...

This is a thought-provoking story about our very own inland sea, produced in collaboration
between Stockholm University and The Sustainable Seas Initiative.

The Sustainable Seas Initiative has been nominated for The Nordic Council Nature and Environment Prize 2013.

The Nature and Environment Prize is awarded to a Nordic organisation, enterprise or individual which has managed in an exemplary way to integrate consideration for Nature and the environment into their business or work or which, in some other way, has made an extraordinary effort for nature and the environment.

The Baltic Sea is a fantastic and in many ways unique sea.
It gives us food, transportation, scenic experiences and recreation.

The Baltic Sea is a very beautiful sea – at least on the surface.
Follow us down into the depths to see how life under the surface is
coping with the evidence of human activity.


Sweden is a country with one of the highest number of boats per capita.
The paints we use on our hulls contain many different toxins to prevent fouling by barnacles and seaweed.
The problem is that they also kill many other marine organisms that have nothing to do with boats.


  • There are boat storage facilities that exceed the limit for: mercury (by a factor of 450), PCB (by a factor of 500) and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (by a factor of 2,000).
  • Sooner or later, these toxins end up in the sea.
  • Anti-fouling paint on a dinghy can contaminate ten billion litres of water, with harmful effects on susceptible molluscs.


Many marine organisms are extremely susceptible.
Sea snails exposed to organic lead compounds in anti-fouling paints develop serious hormone imbalances.
They may even develop the sexual organs of both sexes, which stops them from breeding.

Toxins in anti-fouling paints also have a negative effect on the reproductive abilities of fish, bladder wrack and mussels. They kill many microalgae.


There are other anti-fouling methods besides bottom paint and they’re completely toxin-free. One of these methods is the brush wash stations for boats that are now beginning to multiply along the coast.

Another method is to store your boat out of the water when it’s not in use.


The Swedish Chemicals Agency is aiming for a total ban on toxic anti-fouling paints in Sweden.


The www.havet.nu website is a good place to start if you want to find out more about the sea. The website is run by Stockholm University’s Baltic Sea Centre and Umeå Marine Sciences Centre.

Visit Göteborgs miljövetenskapliga centrum (www.chalmers.se/gmv) to find out more about environmental and sustainable development research at the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology.

The Södermanland County Administrative Board has carried out a survey of anti-fouling paint residue in surface sediment in both natural harbours and marinas. You can read its report at www.lansstyrelsen.se/sodermanland.

The ITM Research Institute at Stockholm University has a great deal of in-depth environmental impact reading matter. Find out more at www.itm.su.se.


Sweden is experiencing a dramatic increase in skin cancer.
This is most likely caused by our love of the sun and the UV radiation to which we expose our skin.

This is why we’ve developed protective skin lotions that filter the harmful radiation. Sunscreen lotions are carefully tested to make sure they’re not harmful to our skin. But no one seems to have taken into consideration whether they’re dangerous to the environment – and they’re extremely harmful.


  • Half (13 of 26) of the sunscreens tested have been approved by the EU, in spite of the fact that they’ve been classified as harmful to the aquatic environment.
  • Tests show that the marketing claims made for many sunscreen lotions exaggerate the level of protection they provide.
  • Many sunscreen lotions contain substances that are directly harmful to our aquatic organisms. But no information or labelling to this effect is included on any sunscreen packaging.
  • 90% of all skin cancer is caused by UV radiation.
  • It only takes 15 minutes of sun exposure each day to get the vitamin D you need.


IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute reports show that UV filters are common in our waste water, as well as the surface water of lakes and waterways.

Many of these have been found in fish. UV filters harm fish and other living organisms in our waters.
(IVL=Swedish Environmental Research Institute)


  • Wear protective clothes made of tightly woven fabrics and a sun hat instead of sunscreen.
  • Avoid the sun in the middle of the day when the sun is directly overhead.
  • Gradually accustom your skin to the sun. Your skin builds up a certain amount of its own protection when it’s gradually exposed to the sun. Our Swedish springtime is an excellent opportunity to do this.
  • Never use sun beds and solariums. UV radiation from solariums is not the same as ordinary sunshine and doesn’t have the same effect on your skin. But it will increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Don’t apply sunscreen immediately before bathing


Sunscreen products are classed as cosmetics and this means they are regulated by the EU Cosmetics Directive. This Directive lists the substances that are allowed to be used as UV filters.

However, approval is based solely on the substances’ health-related properties. Possible environmental impacts are not covered by the Directive.
If any of the sunscreen substances surveyed in the report from Stockholm University had been any other type of product, such as paint or car polish, they would have been classed as hazardous to the aquatic environment.


Visit www.stralsakerhetsmyndigheten.se to read the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority’s report into sunscreen not providing the protection we think it does.

The ITM Research Institute at Stockholm University has a great deal of in-depth environmental impact reading matter. Find out more at www.itm.su.se.


The textile industry is one of the world’s largest industries.
We keep buying more and more clothes to satisfy our continuing quest for beauty. Unfortunately, we hardly recycle our clothes at all, thanks to the never-ending stream of new fashion trends with newly produced clothes.
Cultivation, manufacturing and using textiles have a negative impact on the environment in many different ways – especially on our water and climate.


  • We throw away an average of 30 kg of clothes and textiles per person and year (United Kingdom).
  • It takes one kilo of chemicals to manufacture one ordinary T-shirt.
  • It takes 1,900 litres of water to manufacture one pair of jeans.
  • Clothes and shoes account for approximately 13% of our consumption.
  • The textile industry emits large amounts of hazardous pollutants that are directly harmful to aquatic organisms and the aquatic environment.
  • Large amounts of chemicals are used in clothing manufacture for fibre production, bleaching, dyeing and printing.


PHTHALATES are used as softening agents. They are classed as hormone disrupting and carcinogenic, and certain phthalates are very harmful to aquatic organisms.

BIOCIDES are antibacterials used extensively in sports clothes and shoes; they supposedly counteract bacteria and bad odours. Biocides kill living organisms.

PFOS is used to impregnate all-weather clothing. It is severely injurious to living aquatic organisms.


We should all boycott textiles with added unnecessary substances that risk creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria that may eventually pose a threat to our health. Good clothes of high quality, preferably organic, that last a long time are one way of reducing your impact and saving money in the long term as well.

  • Be a wise consumer: consider your purchases and always choose the quality carefully.
  • Choose environmentally labelled textiles.
  • Choose organically grown cotton (no chemical pesticides) or recycled textiles.
  • Avoid anti-bacteria-treated garments. They’re frequently marketed using messages like “For lasting freshness”, “Anti-odour”, “Hygienic protection”, or “Antimicrobial”, but are by and large ineffective.
  • Question shop assistants about hazardous substances. The company has a responsibility for the products it sells
  • Recycling is the key for sustainability; it must be profitable for consumers and throughout the fashion industry.


While there’s no specific textile legislation, just like other products it’s illegal to sell clothes or textiles containing or treated with chemical products that may be harmful to people. Companies that buy and sell on goods have a responsibility to ensure that those goods don’t harm people’s health or our environment.


The www.havet.nu website is a good place to start if you want to find out more about the sea.
The website is run by Stockholm University’s Baltic Sea Centre and Umeå Marine Sciences Centre.


More and more of the litter generated by consumers like you and me ends up in the sea. This isn’t just an aesthetical problem. Plastics and other litter causes harm to people, plants and animals in many different ways.

Litter finds its way into the stomachs of birds and other animals, and causes illnesses and premature death. Plastic doesn’t dissolve in seawater – it breaks down into tiny particles that are absorbed by sea mussels and other filter feeders.


  • The plastic bag your granny tossed overboard in 1967 still exists somewhere. Plastic has an extremely slow rate of decomposition. It can take from one hundred to several thousand years.
  • The sea mussel you eat contains micro litter. Our oceans are full of microscopic fragments of litter, mostly plastic.
  • Coastal litter costs municipalities millions of Swedish kronor every year.
Fulmars out at sea confuse litter with food and can die when their stomachs fill with litter. Dead fulmars found in the North Sea have an average of 23 bits of plastic in their stomachs.
(Source: The OSPAR Commission)


The little bird’s stomach is full of the litter it’s eaten. Dutch marine biologist Jan van Franeker has investigated plastic in the stomach contents of dead fulmars.
In the 1980s, it consisted of 50% industrial plastic and 50% consumer plastic. Now 90% of the plastic comes from consumers like you and me.
(Source: Wageningen IMARES in the Netherlands)

Ghost nets are fishing nets lost or discarded at sea. They sink to the sea floor or drift around while they continue to catch fish or entangle marine mammals.
When they’re full, they sink to the sea floor. As the nets are made of synthetic materials, they last for a very, very long time. Hundreds of ghost nets in the Baltic Sea catch several hundred tonnes of cod every year.


  • Never drop litter on land or at sea.
  • Volunteer for beach-cleaning activities.
  • Encourage others to refrain from littering.


35-40 years ago waste was frequently dumped at sea. Both ships and planes dumped litter and pollutants at sea. The Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter of 1972 was a global initiative to tackle this problem. The Convention has now been replaced by a Protocol forbidding all forms of dumping.


The www.havet.nu website is a good place to start if you want to find out more about the sea.
The website is run by Stockholm University’s Baltic Sea Centre and Umeå Marine Sciences Centre.

The Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation (www.hsr.se) is a non-profit organisation working to reduce littering, increase recycling and promote the environmental responsibility of individuals and organisations.

”The future of the Baltic Sea is threatened.
I therefore consider it important to involve myself and contribute to the Sustainable Seas Initiative”

Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Victoria

Story told by

The Baltic Sea is one of the world’s most polluted inland seas. It’s affected by extensive marine traffic, leakage of environmental toxins, eutrophication and overfishing. The Sustainable Seas Initiative focuses on using a cross-disciplinary approach and a broad perspective to highlight the Baltic Sea’s problems, but also shows all the initiatives being carried out. The Initiative coordinates all organisations working in the best interests of the Baltic Sea. Extensive measures are still required – the Sustainable Seas Initiative can make a difference in this respect and lead to concrete results.

Crown Princess Victoria is supporting the Initiative, together with representatives from the world of research, environmental organisations, the world of business and politicians from Baltic countries. Briggen Tre Kronor runs the Initiative with its extensive contact network in the region and the ship has become the unifying visual image of Sustainable Seas.

Find out more at www.hallbarahav.nu

The brig Tre Kronor af Stockholm was built at Skeppsholmen in Stockholm between 1997 and 2008; it has been built to last for at least one hundred years.

Today Tre Kronor af Stockholm is a sailing symbol of the work that Briggen Tre Kronor AB carries on for a sustainable future for the Baltic Sea. She is a floating meeting place and attracts scientists, environmental organisations, politicians and business people to deal with the Baltic Sea’s most important issues.

Facts about Tre Kronor af Stockholm
The vessel weighs about 330 tonnes and has a sail area of 750 square metres. The hull is 35 metres long and 8.3 metres wide, and the tallest mast is 29.5 metres.

Find out more at www.briggentrekronor.se

Thank you to all our partners

PS Communication Boomerang Vertical Safety Brandkontoret Allt för sjön Stockholms universitet Forskning & Framsteg Länsförsäkringar Stockholm Kemikalieinspektionen KIBI KIBI