Special features of the Gulf of Finland
The Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland
The Gulf of Finland is shaded. The names of the most important
oil terminals are visible on the map when enlarged.
The easternmost waters of the Baltic
The Gulf of Finland includes the easternmost waters of the Baltic Sea, and is shared by Finland, Estonia and Russia. The Gulf only holds about 5% of all the water in the whole of the Baltic; but as there are no shallows separating the Gulf from the Baltic Proper, the conditions in the water are usually fairly similar.
Rocky shallows along the coast
of the Gulf of Finland.
© Esko Kuusisto, SYKE
The shores of the Gulf of Finland and the Archipelago Sea at its western end are mainly rocky, and dotted with thousands of islands of various sizes. The coastline of southern Finland along the Gulf from Hanko to the Russian border is about 1,700 km in length. The lengths of the shores of all the islands in the Gulf of Finland add up to a total of some 6,500 km.
Unique marine life
Saltwater and freshwater species live side by side in the brackish Baltic. The total number of species is relatively small, but some species are extremely abundant. This makes the Baltic’s ecosystems very sensitive to disruption, since if a certain group of organisms suffers or declines, there are not necessarily other organisms capable of replacing them in the same ecological niche.
The Gulf of Finland forms a key link in the migratory flyways of many arctic birds. Dozens of water bird species nest on the shores of the Gulf, as well as black backed gull. The Gulf is also home to grey seals and ringed seals.
Sensitive natural environments in the Gulf of Finland have been protected in national parks, including the Ekenäs Archipelago National Park (designated in 1989) in the west, and the Eastern Gulf of Finland National Park (1982).
Many other protected areas have been designated along the Gulf, on both private and State-owned land. All of these areas have been added to the Baltic-wide international network of Baltic Sea Protected Areas (BSPAs), and many also belong to the EU Natura 2000 network. A projected national park in Russia will considerably expand the area under protection in the eastern end of the Gulf.
A vital economic resource
The Finnish shores of the Gulf of Finland belong to the Province of Southern Finland, which is home to almost 2.2 million people (about 40% of Finland’s total population), as well as around 40% of all the country’s commercial enterprises.
Cities along the coast include the capital, Helsinki, and the ports of Hanko, Kotka and Hamina. Finland’s largest oil terminal, at Sköldvik near Porvoo, also lies on the Gulf.
The Gulf of Finland is covered by
about 20-40 cm of ice each winter.
© Finnish Board of Navigation
East-west shipping traffic is increasing steadily as Russia establishes more ports at the eastern end of the Gulf. The Finnish Environment Institute has estimated that oil transportation in the Gulf will increase from the current level of over 160 million tonnes a year, to about 200 million tonnes a year by 2015. The largest oil terminal in the Gulf of Finland is Primorsk (Koivisto), in Russia, which handles approximately 75 million tonnes of oil every year.
According to the Finnish Transport Agency, almost 18 million passengers a year make international journeys from Finland by ship. Over 7 million people are ferried between Tallinn and Helsinki every year.
The Gulf of Finland also has important commercial fisheries. Figures published by the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute show that the total commercial fishing catch in the Gulf of Finland amounted to almost 12 million kilos of fish in 2011; while recreational fishermen caught some 2.4 million tonnes of fish in the Gulf in 2010. The most commonly caught fish are Baltic herring, sprat and perch.
For more information
- Senior Scientist Mr Seppo Knuuttila, Finnish Environment Institute, tel. +358 40 760 9232, firstname.lastname@example.org
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