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Survey: Tallinn and Muuga Bay polluted, fish stocks in bad condition

A trawler in Leppneeme, Muuga Bay.
A trawler in Leppneeme, Muuga Bay. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

A survey by the Estonian University of Life Sciences (EMU) and the Estonian Environmental Research Centre (EKUK) showed that though fish stocks in the Gulf of Finland are generally of acceptable health, some areas along the Estonian cost are heavily polluted.

Tallinn and Muuga Bay are polluted, and their fish stocks in bad condition, while Nõva (some 70 km/43 mi to the west) and Käsmu (some 60 km/37 mi to the east) show signs of pollution, but the fish stocks are doing well there, ETV's "Aktuaalne Kaamera" reported on Thursday.

To assess the pollution of Estonian coastal waters, fish were collected from local fishermen in seven different locations, the westernmost of which being Nõva. Going east from there, specimens were collected in Paldiski, Tallinn (Naissaar and Noblessneri Harbor), Muuga (Leppneeme), Käsmu, and at the mouth of the Purtse stream in Ida-Viru County.

The biological markers of 203 specimens were examined. “We looked at the metabolic products of polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons in the bile of the fish,” EMU senior scientist Arvo Tuvikene explains. “They mainly reflect the presence of oils in the water, or also pollution coming from [the industrial processing of] oil shale.” He explained that they also looked at the damage done to the red blood cells of the fish.

The survey brought out that the most polluted areas were Tallinn and Muuga Bay. EMU specialist Randel Kreitsberg explains that the dense shipping traffic and the industrial processing of oil shale are two main sources of pollution.

“Consider that there’s dense shipping traffic: passenger ships, freighters, and the city contributes as well. We found a lot of toxic substances in Tallinn and Muuga Bay. But close by, around Naissaar, the fish were in very good condition,” Kreitsberg said.

According to Kreitsberg, the conclusion that can be drawn from the survey is that while the fish stocks of some areas along the Estonian coast are in danger, the health of stocks of the Gulf of Finland on the whole is satisfactory.

Kreitsberg as well as Tuvikene are of the opinion that the health of fish in Estonian coastal waters needs to be investigated in more detail, both for the sake of the consumer, who would like to be sure that they eat good fish, as well as the fishermen, who would like fish to catch in the decades to come.

The European Union’s so-called Baltic Sea Action Plan aims to restore the good ecological status of the Baltic Sea until 2021. According to Tuvikene, it is one of the aims of their surveys to work on criteria that would make it possible to say whether or not the action plan succeeded. Tuvikene himself doesn’t believe that will be the case, not by 2021.

Editor: Editor: Dario Cavegn

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