• 90% of commercial fish stocks are overfished or fished to their biological limits.
• 400,000 seabirds drown every year as unwanted by-catch in the bottom-set gillnets of fishermen.
• NABU demands that at least 50% of marine conservation areas must be free from fishing and other uses.
Fish are in great demand. Every year, more than 80 million tons of wild fish are caught worldwide. So it’s hardly surprising, as time goes by, that more and more ships have been hunting fewer and fewer fish. In the meantime, we’ve had to learn that fish are also a limited resource. But the problem lies not only in the quantity we catch, but also in the way we go about catching the fish. Many species are caught using the bottom trawling technique. Here, heavy nets are dragged over the seabed, destroying fragile reef communities of sponges, anemones and mussels. The problem of bottom-set gillnets is different. Far too often they become death traps for harbour porpoises and seabirds.


• In 2014, over 825,000 tonnes of nitrogen and almost 31,000 tonnes of phosphate reached the Baltic Sea.
• In 2014, the area covered by oxygen-depleted dead zones at the bottom of the Baltic Sea amounted to 60,000 square kilometres – about one sixth of its area.
• NABU demands that agriculture drastically reduce its use of fertilisers, that sewage treatment plants be modernised and that field margins be enlarged.
Eutrophication, or high nutrient input into the sea, especially nitrogen and phosphate, is considered the biggest environmental problem in the Baltic Sea. This is mainly caused by the excessive use of liquid manure and fertilisers. It results in the explosive reproduction of even the smallest algae. After just a few weeks, these carpets of algae sink to the seabed, where they are broken down by microorganisms. A great deal of oxygen is consumed in the process and, in the worst-case scenario, oxygen-free zones occur. In recent decades, the extent of these areas – also known as dead zones –has increased tenfold in the Baltic Sea to 60,000 square kilometres.


• Every year, over 60,000 ships pass through the Kadet Channel, one of the most frequently used sea routes in Europe.
• The fine particle emissions of a cruise ship equate to a million cars on the same route.
• NABU demands the banning of heavy fuel oil as a cheap and highly toxic marine fuel.
95 percent of global freight traffic is handled at sea. Tens of thousands of tankers, container ships and cruise liners sail the seas. Unlike on land, their air emissions are subject to less stringent regulations. For example, heavy fuel oil, a toxic waste product from oil refineries, may still be fired here. This fuel contains up to 3500 times more sulphur than the diesel fuel you get from a petrol station.
As well as producing harmful emissions, many ships are also very noisy. Over the last 60 years, increasing shipping traffic has led to a doubling of noise pollution in the oceans with each new decade. Many marine animals, especially whales and dolphins, are driven away by ships, displacing them from their key habitats.

Offshore Wind Power

• When pile-driving the foundations for wind farms, sound levels can reach up to 200 decibels. This is louder than a jet plane taking off.
• Many bird species steer well clear of wind farms losing up to 16 kilometres of their habitat.
• NABU demands conservation areas and key bird migration routes be kept free of wind turbines.
Offshore wind power is said to make a key contribution to the energy revolution. But the noisy ramming work required for the foundations also endangers whales and dolphins as well as fish. Harbour porpoises can be injured or driven from feeding and breeding grounds. Once the wind farm has been built, many bird species give the areas a wide berth. For migrating birds, the spinning rotors become a death trap – especially in bad weather or at night, when the migrants fly at lower altitude or become attracted by their obstacle lighting.

Plastic Pollution

• Every year up to 13 million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the world’s seas and oceans from land-based sources alone.
• An average of 70 pieces of litter lie strewn on every 100 metre stretch of beach on the Baltic Sea – and almost 90 percent is made of plastic.
• NABU demands that the oceans be protected from littering, that we reduce packaging, make products durable and make producers more responsible.
Dolphins get entangled in old fishing nets, sea turtles and fulmars mistake plastic bags and packaging for food, and masses of microplastics are entering the marine food chain. For far too long we humans have been careless with plastics. Today, plastic production amounts to over 335 million tons per year. Much of this ends up in the sea, is left strewn on beaches or is illegally dumped by ships. Visible plastic waste is just the tip of the iceberg, as 90 percent of our rubbish ends up on the sea floor sooner or later. And it stays there for a very long time, breaking down into ever smaller particles – a plastic bag takes 25 years to decompose while a PET bottle takes as long as 450 years.

Sand and Gravel Mining

• Sand from the sea is used worldwide for coastal protection and in construction. Annual demand amounts to over 15 billion tons.
• In 2012, 93.5 million cubic metres of sand were extracted from Europe's seas. This amounts to about 37 Cheops Pyramids.
• NABU demands that removal of sand from the sea for construction purposes be stopped.
Sand and gravel from the sea are becoming scarce. This is due to the global construction boom. Special ships, so-called suction dredgers, pump huge quantities of sediment from the seabed at high pressure and spew this sand and water mixture ashore or onto waiting transport ships. The excavation areas are several kilometres long and are dredged to a sediment depth of up to half a metre. Hardly any living creature survives this procedure. What’s more, a kilometre-long sediment plume is formed. The fine organic particles are flushed back into the sea to then lie like a shroud over seagrass, algae or anemone. It takes years, sometimes decades, for habitats like this to recover from the impact. And marine communities are often even destroyed forever.

Underwater Noise

• Sound waves propagate five times faster in water than on land. They overlap and become a danger to marine animals.
• Exposed to sound levels of 160 decibels (approx. 100 decibels on land), harbour porpoises become temporarily hard of hearing.
• NABU demands that ramming work, blasting, seismic surveys and active ship sonars be banned in protected areas.
Nearly all marine animals use sound. But the noise we humans now inflict on marine animals is pushing many species to their limits. We industrialise the oceans and cause real noise confusion with shipping traffic, dredging activities, sonar and ramming noise, explosions and airguns for seismic explorations. Whales are particularly affected here. They can die or surface too fast in panic, calves can be separated from their mothers and, all too often, important habitats are lost. For far too long we have underestimated, perhaps even ignored, the impact of underwater noise. Over the past 60 years, noise pollution has doubled with each new decade.

Pipelines and Undersea Cables

• At the bottom of the Baltic Sea lie tens of thousands of kilometres of pipelines for oil and gas as well as data and electrical cables.
• For the Nord Stream gas pipeline alone, 50 kilometres of marine protected areas in the German Baltic Sea will be dug up.
• NABU demands that pipelines and undersea cables run outside protected areas.
The modern world is a global network. A huge array of undersea cables and pipelines has been created to exchange communication data, transport electricity over long distances and deliver gas or oil to large cities. Not without consequences for marine species and habitats. The laying of these pipelines means digging deep trenches – like the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline which, at over 1200 kilometres long, is set to supply gas from Russia to Germany. This will come at the expense of marine habitats and species, since it will cross five marine protected areas in the German Baltic Sea established for seagrass meadows, harbour porpoises and rare sea ducks. Once again, the protection of marine biodiversity right on our doorstep is being called into question when major projects like this keep being approved in protected areas.

Ghost Nets

• Worldwide, millions of old fishing nets drift through our seas, accounting for up to 10% of the waste found in the oceans.
• Every year up to 10,000 fishing nets are lost in the Baltic Sea.
• NABU demands that stricter reporting requirements for lost nets be implemented and that deposit and return systems for fishing nets be introduced.
If a fishing net goes overboard in a storm, gets caught on a wreck or is simply disposed of illegally, it continues to catch fish for a very long time. The robust yarn of the nets takes decades, maybe even centuries, to decompose into smaller and smaller plastic particles. During this time, these nets become death traps for whales and dolphins, turtles and birds, fish and invertebrates – a cruel reality. And shipwrecks, in particular, sometimes collect dozens of these silent traps. So divers and scientists around the world are now trying to recover old nets and free reefs and wrecks from these hazards. Even more important though, is stopping fishing nets ending up in the sea as ghost nets in the first place.


Selection Sphere Chalk Reefs Seagrass Beds Drop Offs Rocky Reefs Shipwreck NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union)