Human activities in the Baltic Sea and its surroundings are responsible for pressures on the environment. The size of the catchment area of the Baltic Sea is four times the size of its surface area, and is currently inhabited by around 85 million people. Inputs from human activities in the catchment area, such as nutrient loading and hazardous substances, add to pressures from human activities at sea, causing cumulative impacts to the status of the marine environment. Important current pressures acting on the Baltic Sea environment are shown in Figure 3.1, together with links to the many human activities that may contribute to them. Examples of human activities of importance in the Baltic Sea and their spatial distribution are shown in Figure 3.2.
Figure 3.1. Human activities in the Baltic Sea and their connection to pressure types. The lines show which pressures are potentially connected to a certain human activity, without inferring the pressure intensity nor potential impacts in each case. The figure illustrates the level of complexity involved in the management of environmental pressures.
Figure 3.2. Examples of human activities of importance in the Baltic Sea and their spatial distribution: a) finfish aquaculture sites, b) location of pipelines, c) location of offshore wind farms, d) shipping density, e) intensity of bottom trawling, and f) dredging sites and dredging material deposit sites. The spatial distribution of the activities are dependent, for example, on the distribution of underlying resources and topography. Fishing activities have the highest intensity in areas where the target species are most abundant; depth and seabed properties determine suitable locations for sand extraction or wind farms; and shipping routes need to be planned in relation to travel distances and safety. However, the distribution of certain activities, such as aquaculture, is a result of regulatory and cultural differences. Marine spatial planning has an emerging role in using these different aspects to manage human activities at sea, as well as mitigating negative effects on the environment.
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. On the one hand, the regional economic and social analyses consider the economic benefits foregone if the marine environment deteriorates. But on the other hand, they illustrate economic benefits arising from the use of the marine environment.
Figure 3.3 outlines the regional economic and social analyses and their role in their holistic assessment. More detailed descriptions on methods and additional data are presented in HELCOM (2018A; Thematic assessment).
Figure 3.3. Roles of economic and social analyses in the holistic assessment. The human activities contribute to the national and regional economies and human welfare, which is measured by the economic and social analysis of the use of marine waters (Box 3.1 in Economic benefits from the protection and use of the Baltic Sea). The state of the marine environment affects human welfare. The welfare losses from not being in a good environmental status are estimated in the cost of degradation analysis (Box 3.2 in Economic benefits from the protection and use of the Baltic Sea). The status also affects the economic contribution from many activities, such as recreation and fish and shellfish harvesting, as shown by the link back from ‘state’ to ‘activity’.