Saving the Baltic bit by bit – and fish by fish
Let’s start with fish. In our local fishery project, two things were achieved at once: reducing the nutrient loading of the Baltic, and making better use of roach stocks, which are too numerous. This year, despite the difficult weather conditions, a total of 150,000 kg of bream and roach were caught, and 1.2 tonnes of phosphorus was removed from the sea. This is more than a quarter of all the wastewater discharges from the Turku area.
The fish that are caught as part of the project are a great source of ethical local food for consumers. In April this year, a national grocery chain began selling fish cakes made from Baltic Sea catches. It very quickly became one of their most popular frozen fish products.
In agriculture, we support gypsum treatment of farmed land, which is a revolutionary new measure that can significantly reduce nutrient flows from land into the Finnish archipelago. The treatment does not require changes in cultivation practices, nor does it harm crops or reduce crop yields. The measure is a great example of the benefits of the Finland 100 efforts: Finland can show the world how to make water protection policies really work, and how to bring added value to the agricultural sector.
In the NutriTrade project, we are right now launching the online platform Nutribute. This brings together Baltic Sea protection and improvement initiatives and sources of funding. This too is something that has not been done before, but which is sorely needed. The goal is to move from ideas to action – to present concrete Baltic Sea conservation projects and to form a team of supporters for these projects.
When individual efforts can no longer bring about significant reductions in emissions, emissions can continue to be cut by financing such measures elsewhere. Finnish cities have upped their game when it comes to protecting the Baltic Sea. Their efforts to remove nutrients from wastewater have led to significantly improved water quality. Since wastewater is very effectively cleaned already, removing the last remaining nutrients becomes very expensive. For this reason, the most cost-effective additional measures to save the Baltic Sea come from beyond Finnish purification plants.
Neutralizing Finland’s nutrient emissions is still a new effort, as it is in the rest of the world A year ago, the city of Helsinki began a pilot project to neutralize its own nutrient emissions as part of our NutriTrade project, and since then, other cities have also taken up the challenge. In late summer this year, we told you about joint projects with water utilities in Kotka, Porvoo and the Turku region.
The BEST project for the best water purification underway in five Baltic Sea countries
This autumn, we also started the Better Efficiency for Sewage Treatment (BEST) project to improve management of industrial wastewater by municipal wastewater treatment plants in five Baltic Sea countries. The goal is to develop technical solutions and administrative practices so that municipal wastewater treatment plants receive steadily smaller amounts of industrial emissions. We are proud and pleased that this multi-operator cooperation project has gotten off to a strong start. The idea and its realization as a working project came from us.
Emissions from Russia into the Gulf of Finland will be cut with the aid of an effluent reduction project in the Russian city of Kingisepp. This project is just about ready for takeoff. Phosphorus removal at the treatment plant will begin in the spring, and to bolster the Kingisepp project, we are going to begin similar projects in cooperation with the cities of St. Petersburg, Hatsina and Vyborg. Phosphorous removal projects are already underway at treatment plants in all three cities, and they cut over one-third of the daily phosphorus load into the Gulf of Finland.
What can I do to help the Baltic?
Efforts on a massive scale are needed to protect the Baltic Sea, and indeed the entire planet. However, individual citizens also want to do their part in helping the environment, through their own actions. We were involved in a project to create the first system for calculating the Baltic footprint of individual persons. This is a Finnish innovation.
According to the Baltic Sea emissions counter, the easiest and most effective way to protect the Baltic is to increase the proportion of natural fish and vegetables in your diet. In particular, it would be best to choose domestic fish. You don’t need to stop eating meat entirely, but you should eat less of it. Since the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, tweeted in the fall of his decision to reduce his own meat consumption to one day a week, this important issue has once again come to the fore. Exemplary efforts are just what we need!
Based on the Baltic Sea footprint calculator, we developed a game called Splash, which enables schoolkids to test the impacts of their own choices on the state of the Baltic. This game is already in use at the Allas Sea Pool in the heart of Helsinki, and next year it will be available to play on the foundation’s website and at its events.
Thousands of homes and summer resorts, islands, sailing clubs, tourism entrepreneurs and museums on the shores of the Baltic Sea and inland are keeping alive a great many centuries-old traditions related to waterways and seaside life, such as inshore fishing. Our generation has come to a turning point. It is an astounding idea that we will be remembered for what we did or – or did not do – to save the Baltic Sea and its heritage.
We want to thank Metso for its active involvement in supporting our work!
Photo: Jenna Halonen
Secretary General, John Nurminen Foundation