Baltic MPAs - Marine protected areas in the Eastern Baltic Sea

LIFE05 NAT/LV/000100

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Heidrun FAMMLER
Tel: +371 6735 7555
Fax: +371 6750 7071
Email: heidrun.fammler@bef.lv

Project description:


The Baltic Sea is a unique and fragile marine ecosystem hosting many species and habitats of European and global interest, including the Steller's Eider (Polysticta stelleri) which has its own European Species Action Plan. It is believed that the by-catch of birds and seals in fishing nets is a problem in the Baltic Sea and assumed that habitats are damaged by construction works and the dumping of dredged material on the seabed.

However, lack of data on the distribution and conservation status of habitats and species targeted by the Birds and Habitat Directives in the marine areas of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania remains a fundamental problem. Without this data or a clear understanding of environmental threats, the overall conservation objective cannot be achieved or measured.


The project aimed to contribute to the protection and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in the costal and offshore waters of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - the Eastern Baltic Sea. A particular focus was to be given to the species and habitats mentioned in the relevant Annexes of European Directives.

The detailed project objectives were to: 1. Obtain better information about species and habitats of European importance in the coastal waters of the Baltic States. 2. Assess and reduce the impact of fishery by-catch on target bird and mammal species, e.g. the priority species for LIFE funding Polysticta stelleri. 3. Assess and address other threats to marine Natura 2000 sites (e.g. caused by constructions/developments, disturbance of species by economic or recreational activities, pollution). 4. Complete the establishment of Natura 2000 in the marine territories of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (site selection, designation, protection rules and management plans). 5. Increase public and stakeholder awareness on Natura 2000, marine protected areas and biodiversity in general in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia.

Trans-boundary networking and capacity building with key stakeholders from north-west Russia was also foreseen due to the close ecological connectivity of the Baltic Sea ecosystem and serious (potential) threats originating from the adjacent non-EU territories.


The project successfully provided a scientifically sound basis for designation of MPAs and mitigation measures for targeted marine habitats and species. Following appropriate training and study visits, the team studied benthic (seabed) habitats in 13 areas totalling 6 000 km2. Ecologically important reef and sandbank habitats were found to be rare. Fish species were monitored using nets with meshes of different sizes and food analysis of larger fish.

An inventory of waterbirds from land, ships and planes identified breeding sites and spotted endangered birds. Acoustic monitoring devices, tags and an aerial census discovered that the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) was not present, but found growing populations of grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) and struggling populations of ringed seal(Pusa hispida).

Data was gathered from co-operating fishermen on species caught in their gear, complemented with information from independent project fishing activities. Hydro-dynamical modelling assessed the impact to marine habitats from the dumping of dredged material and a literature review assessed impact from various economic activities. Finally, pollution levels from shipping, oil and other industries were measured by sampling molluscs and sediment.

The main threats to the ringed seal were the warming climate and human disturbance to breeding and resting sites. Fishing by-catch was a cause of mortality for seals, birds and non-commercial fish but it was generally not a major threat to populations. Nor was dumping of dredged material a major issue within protected areas. Far more important factors were eutrophication and pollution of water.

The project proposed seven new marine protected areas in Latvia, one in Lithuania and the modification of existing ones in Lithuania and Estonia. The team conceived management plans for six areas, describing the sites and proposing modest restrictions to some military and leisure activities. Larger mesh sizes and some calendar restrictions were proposed for Lithuanian fishermen.

Use of long lines and herring-trap nets to reduce bird catch in cod and herring fishing were demonstrated effectively in Lithuania. In Estonia, seal-safe fyke nets were successfully tested for protecting seals and reducing damage to nets, earning the support of local fishermen and the European Fisheries Fund.

The project engaged key stakeholders - including Russian partners - in activities and events to raise their awareness of Natura 2000 in marine environments. Supporting materials included a film, a book, flyers, a website and information boards.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Habitats - Marine


fishing industry‚  marine reserve‚  protected area‚  environmental training‚  environmental impact assessment

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...

Target species

 Branta leucopsis   Chlidonias niger   Cygnus columbianus bewickii   Cygnus cygnus   Gavia arctica   Gavia stellata   Halichoerus grypus   Larus minutus   Mergus albellus   Phoca hispida botnica   Phocoena phocoena   Podiceps auritus   Polysticta stelleri   Sterna albifrons   Sterna caspia   Sterna hirundo   Sterna sandvicensis   

Target Habitat types

  • 1140 - Mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide
  • 1150 - Coastal lagoons
  • 1110 - Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time
  • 1160 - Large shallow inlets and bays
  • 1170 - Reefs

Natura 2000 sites

SCI EE0010171 Kolga lahe
SCI EE0010173 Lahemaa
SPA EE0040001 Väinamere
SCI EE0040412 Kahtla-Kübassaare
SCI EE0040418 Kasti lahe
SCI EE0040428 Koorunõmme
SCI EE0040432 Küdema lahe
SPA EE0040434 Kura kurgu
SCI EE0040469 Siiksaare-Oessaare
SCI EE0040472 Sutu lahe
SCI EE0040476 Tagamõisa
SCI EE0040496 Vilsandi
SCI LV0200200 Kemeru nacionalais parks
SCI LV0302800 Engures ezers
SCI LV0303500 Pape



Coordinator SO "Baltijas Vides forums"
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description Baltic Environmental Forum - Latvia (BEF-Latvia) is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation focusing on nature conservation, water policy, waste management, climate change, energy and chemical policy.
Partners Baltic Environmental Forum - Estonia (BEF-Estonia), Estonia Baltic Environmental Forum - Lithuania (BEF-Lithuania), Lithuania Estonian Environment Information Centre (EEIC), Estonia Estonian Marine Institute (EMI), Estonia Estonian Ornithological Society (EOÜ), Estonia Marine and Inland Waters Administration (MIWA), Latvia Latvian National Armed Forces (NAF), Latvia Institute for Aquatic Ecology (IAE LU), Latvia Latvian Ornithological Society (LOB), Latvia Latvian Fish Resources Agency (LATFRA), Latvia SIA Vides Filmu Studija /Wildlife & Environmental Film Productions / (VFS), Latvia SO Sociāli Orientētu Projektu Aģentūra /PO Socially Oriented Project Agency/ (SOPA), Latvia Institute of Ecology, Vilnius University (EKOI), Lithuania Coastal Research and Planning Institute, Klaipėda University (KUCORPI), Lithuania Centre of Marine Research (CMR), Lithuania PO Baltic Fund for Nature (BFFN-RU) – St.Petersburg, Russia BirdLife International Metsähallitus - Natural Heritage Services (Metsähallitus), Finland Estonian State Nature Conservation Centre (ECNC), Estonia Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), Germany


Project reference LIFE05 NAT/LV/000100
Duration 01-AUG-2005 to 30-NOV -2009
Total budget 3,111,316.00 €
EU contribution 1,555,658.00 €
Project location Associated Estonia (EE)(Estonia Eesti) Associated Lithuania (LT)(Lithuania Lietuva) Associated Latvia (LV)(Latvia Latvija)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Conservation Plan After-LIFE Conservation Plan
Publication: Case study Läänemeri - meie ühine ja kordumatu aare
Publication: Case study Ieraugi Baltijas jūru - mūsu vienīgo un kopīgo
Publication: Case study See the Baltic Sea - Unique assets we share
Publication: Case study Atrask Baltijos jūrą - Spalvingas ir verdantis jūr ...
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Video link Biological values of the Eastern Baltic Sea clips (21')
Video link Biological values of the Eastern Baltic Sea clips (21')
Video link Biological values of the Eastern Baltic Sea clips (21')
Video link Biological values of the Eastern Baltic Sea clips (21')
Video link "See the sea!" (7')
Video link "See the sea!" (7')
Video link "See the sea!" (7')


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version