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BALTIC SEA

Trove of shipwrecks found in Baltic Sea

A dozen previously unknown shipwrecks have been found on the bed of the Baltic Sea; some of them are thought to up to 1,000 years old, the Swedish National Heritage Board said on Monday.

Trove of shipwrecks found in Baltic Sea

The underwater treasure trove of nautical antiquities was discovered during a probe of the sea bed to prepare for the installation of a large gas pipeline.

“We have managed to identify 12 shipwrecks, and nine of them are considered to be fairly old,” Peter Norman, a senior advisor with the heritage board, told AFP.

“We think many of the ships are from the 17th and 18th centuries and we think some could even be from the Middle Ages,” he said, stressing that “this discovery offers enormous culture-historical value.”

The shipwrecks were discovered during a probe by the Russian-led Nord Stream consortium of the sea bed route its planned gas pipeline from Russia to the European Union will take through the Baltic.

“They used sonar equipment first and discovered some unevenness along the sea bottom … so they filmed some of the uneven areas, and we could see the wrecks,” Norman explained.

The discovery was made outside Sweden’s territorial waters, but within its economic zone, he said.

None of the wrecks were in the actual path the Nord Stream pipeline is set to take, but they were in its so-called anchor corridor, meaning they are in the area where ships laying the pipeline might anchor, Norman said.

“That’s one of the reasons this probe was done: to avoid damaging wrecks on the sea bed,” he said, adding that the Swedish National Heritage Board had received assurances from Nord Stream that “the positioning of the wrecks will be taken into account when they lay the pipeline”.

Due to its low temperatures and oxygen levels, the Baltic Sea is known as an ideal environment for conserving shipwrecks, which can remain virtually unblemished for hundreds and even thousands of year.

According to Norman, some 3,000 shipwrecks have been discovered and mapped in the Baltic, but experts believe more than 100,000 whole and partial wrecks litter the sea bottom.

“What makes this discovery so unique is that these wrecks have their hulls fully intact,” Norman said, adding however that there were no plans to raise the wrecks, which lie at a depth of more than 100 metres.

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ENVIRONMENT

Sweden lags in Baltic Sea protection efforts

Sweden is not meeting its targets for restoring the Baltic sea, and neither are any of the other eight countries bordering the sea, according to a report published on Monday by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Sweden lags in Baltic Sea protection efforts

The Baltic Action Plan was signed in Krakow, Poland, in 2007, with the aim of restoring the Baltic Sea’s marine environments by 2021 with cooperation from the nine countries bordering the sea.

On Monday, the WWF stated that all of the countries are not up to scratch in following the 56 proposed actions to save the sea, and that they all appear destined to fail in each objective by 2021.

Objectives include eutrophication, pollution, shipping and biodiversity. Sweden is particularly lacking when it comes to meeting the target for biodiversity protection, being the worst of the Baltic Sea countries.

Sweden was ranked equal third with Estonia in the report, following Finland and Germany. Lithuania and Russia claimed the bottom places.

“This is urgent. All countries are far behind. If they do not make a real effort, the entire plan risks being overturned,” Håkan Wirtén, Secretary General of WWF, said in a statement.

“To avoid or postpone investments to protect and restore the Baltic Sea is not responsible behaviour. Nor is this something that we who live around the sea can accept. The later we act, the more expensive it becomes,” said Åsa Andersson, Director of WWF’s aquatic unit.

The Baltic Sea, one of the world’s largest brackish water bodies, is in danger due to the increasing human usage of the water, but also because of its low level of water exchange.

The Baltic Sea countries will meet on October 3rd in Copenhagen to oversee the action plans.

TT/The Local/ep

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