Every one of us has a personal relationship with the Baltic Sea marine environment. We gain benefits when we use the sea for recreation and transportation, we harvest its resources, and some of us obtain direct employment and income from marine activities. The uses influence the state of the environment, sometimes reducing its ability to provide goods and services for human well-being. The importance of the Baltic Sea marine environment to society, to national and regional economies and for the well-being of current and future generations is shown by economic and social analyses, illustrating that use of marine waters brings significant contribution to the economies and the welfare of citizens.
Hundreds of years ago, fishing was vital for the survival of people around the Baltic Sea, often combined with farming and hunting. Shipping played an essential role in the transportation of people and goods. These activities are still of key importance today, although hunting is no longer a source of livelihood. More advanced technology is used and the traditional usages of the sea are accompanied by new ones, such as offshore energy production, extraction of sand and gravel, aquaculture, and tourism and recreation. Overall, the presence of human activities has increased, and more parts of the sea are accessible to human activity.
Activities in the Baltic Sea and its coastal areas bring employment and economic benefits to national economies, and also affect people’s welfare directly, for example, by providing recreational space. The first holistic assessment included some case study results of the costs and benefits of improving the state of the Baltic Sea (HELCOM 2010a). The present assessment deepens our understanding of the connection between the marine environment and human welfare, by presenting regional economic and social analyses of these impacts, both from the use of marine waters and deterioration of the marine environment (see also supplementary report: HELCOM 2017A).
The economic contribution from the current use of marine waters is measured by economic and social indicators (Box 3.1). In this report, the economic contribution from the following activities is included:
- fish and shellfish harvesting
- marine aquaculture
- tourism and leisure (including recreation)
- renewable energy generation
- marine transport and infrastructure.
The activities are selected based on data availability, with the aim of presenting data that is regionally representative. These also represent a subset of human activities that are of importance in the Baltic Sea as either well-established or emerging (Figure 3.1). These human activities are described in more detail in the forthcoming HELCOM Maritime Assessment.