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Baltic Sea

The surface area of the Baltic Sea is 422 000 square kilometres. The Finnish territorial waters and Finland's exclusive economic zone comprise 82 000 square kilometres, which is less than one fifth of the total area. The Baltic Sea's share of Finland's total land and water area is 19%. Other countries governing the Baltic Sea are Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Russia.

The indicators of the Baltic Sea are still under development.

The Young and Unique Baltic Sea

The Baltic Sea is quite young for a sea, being just over 10,000 years old. Additionally, its history includes several consecutive lake and sea phases. For these reasons, only a few species have had time to adapt to its conditions, and conversely, many marine species have not had sufficient time to migrate to the Baltic Sea through natural dispersal routes. The salinity is comparatively low across the Baltic Sea area, as about half of the water entering the Baltic Sea comes from rivers flowing into it. Salinity continues to decrease towards the east and north, reaching its lowest in the Gulf of Finland and the Bay of Bothnia.

Due to the low salinity of Finland’s coastal waters, true marine species are sparse in our waters. To date, from the well-known species, only 1% are considered primarily Baltic Sea species. However, among the lesser-known species, there is a large group of microalgae (about 5,000 species), making the Baltic Sea’s share of Finland’s entire species range actually larger than this. The Baltic Sea is the main habitat for fish, mollusks, marine mammals, many birds, and macroalgae.

Finland by the Common Baltic Sea

In the context of this webservice, we are focusing on the part of the Baltic Sea that is located within Finland’s maritime area. Defining the sea in this way is ecologically artificial, but administratively justified. In 2005, the Act on Finland’s Economic Zone came into effect, under which laws already in force in territorial waters can also be applied in the economic zone. This law enhances the enforcement of environmental crimes, as vessels that intentionally cause emissions can be prosecuted in Finnish courts.

The outer boundaries of the economic zone are determined based on agreements with other countries. The economic zone can extend up to a maximum of 200 nautical miles from the baselines (according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea), but due to geographical reasons, this limit is not reached in Finland. Currently, the entire Baltic Sea is divided into similar administrative areas among the surrounding countries.

Under the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which came into effect in 2008, Finland has developed a national marine management plan and action program for the years 2022-2027 for its maritime area. The action program includes metrics for monitoring the condition and outlines actions to achieve good environmental status.