The Swedish case study areas

Map of Blekinge and Skåne

The Hanö Bight stretches from the south east corner of Skåne to the east end of the Blekinge Archipelago. The area covers 680 000 ha and has a combined coastline of over 200 km, not including the islands. Natura 2000 sites cover around 4% of the area. The deepest point reaches 60 meters, and the salinity ranges from 7.5 PSU to 13 PSU in the deeper parts. It is characterised by two different shore types. In Skåne, the majority of the coast is covered by sandy beaches and wetlands. The coast of Blekinge is formed by an extensive archipelago with several small islands and skerries. With the predominant southern winds, upwelling often makes the coastal waters cold. The Hanö Bight has a high diversity of reefs, sandbanks, wintering seabirds, large fish stocks and eelgrass meadows. Harbour seals are frequent visitors and harbour porpoises regularly visit the area.

The Hanö Bight is an important area for the Central Baltic herring. It has been known to spawn here during spring (March-June) and autumn (September to November). This is dependent on the temperature, with herring preferring temperatures between 7-8 °C for spawning. Herring spawn at 0-8 meters mostly on exposed bottoms with marine vegetation down to 20 m along the entire coastline. In autumn, spawning takes place further out and less is known about the exact locations.

Eutrophication

The Hanö Bight is supplied by a large number of rivers and annually receives around 5 200 tonnes of nitrogen and 115 tonnes of phosphor. About 95 % of the nitrogen and 70 % of the phosphor is introduced by rivers, only about 5 % of the nitrogen and 25 % of the phosphor come from the industry in the area.

The river catchment goes through a large area of forest and agriculture. Extensive monitoring of the coast has been conducted for several years. According to the criteria for the Water Framework Directive, the coastal area of the Hanö Bight is classified as poor or moderate, with small variation from year to year and at best only a small downward trend. Visibility varies between 2.7 m and 14 m between different stations and between years.

Measures have been taken to decrease the nutrient load in the rivers, but the effort may not be enough. The lessened visibility due to eutrophication impacts light penetration and the vegetation areas negatively. Areas of eelgrass have been disappearing in the Hanö Bight, and since vegetation areas are necessary for a good herring spawning, an effect on spawning is likely, although no regional studies have yet been conducted.

In the last three years, there has been an increased fish mortality and poor water quality in the Hanö Bight on the Skåne side. Several plausible sources have been investigated, but no definite cause has so far been found.

Human activities

The most important human uses in the area are agriculture and commercial fisheries, and further uses include surfing, sailing, sports fishing, kayaking and recreation. Plans for offshore wind farms exist, and an environmental impact assessment was made in 2010, but construction has not yet started. The area has two large military sea exercise areas and two ports with international cargo and ferry lines. The most important fisheries are herring, cod and eel, and the town of Simrishamn has one of the largest landing ports for herring in the Baltic Sea. The Blekinge archipelago has several natural and cultural heritage sites and was designated as UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2011.