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Moomins want to raise a million euros to protect the Baltic Sea

Funds from the campaign will be channeled into conservation projects aimed at reducing the impact of destructive algae.

sinileväpuuroa meressä
Toxic blue-green algae was evident in the Baltic Sea last July, and the first signs of a similar cyanobacterial outbreak have been seen this summer. Image: Jaani Lampinen / Yle

If Moomin creator Tove Jansson could see the Baltic Sea in 2019, she would do her best to improve it.

That's the view of Moomin Characters' current artistic director, Tove Jansson's niece Sophia Jansson.

Moomin Characters Ltd, the limited liability company that controls the image and licensing rights of the Moomin characters, plans to raise one million euros next year to protect the Baltic Sea. Company CEO Roleff Kråkström first proposed the idea of using Moomins as patrons, when he witnessed the effect of blue-green algae on the water.

Since then, more than 50 companies and organisations have become involved, including the John Nurminen Foundation, known for its protection campaigns in the Baltic Sea.

Story continues after photo

Moomin Charactersin taiteellinen johtaja Sophia Jansson ja toimitusjohtaja Roleff Kråkström uskovat, että muumit voivat innostaa ihmisiä Itämeren suojeluun.
Moomin Characters' Artistic Director Sophia Jansson and Managing Director Roleff Kråkström believe that Moomins can inspire people to protect the Baltic Sea. Image: Lehtikuva

The Baltic Sea campaign will launch in 2020, and will coincide with the 75th anniversary of the publication of the first Moomin story, The Moomins and The Great Flood. According to Sophia Jansson, the sea was an important element for Tove Jansson.

"The sea is present in all of the Moomin stories, and was also a very large part of Tove's personality, production and heart. She lived by the sea and in the archipelago all her life," explains Sophia Jansson.

Nutrients from agriculture lead to algae

The biggest problem in the Baltic Sea is caused by eutrophication, which occurs when a body of water becomes overly enriched with minerals and nutrients, creating algae. When dead algae descends to the bottom, it consumes oxygen.

In the Baltic Sea eutrophication has resulted in excessive growth of algae and record-breaking levels of oxygen depletion.

"We are in a vicious circle that makes the eutrophication situation in the Baltic Sea difficult, despite the fact that much has been done to improve the situation on land," says Seppo Knuuttila, Senior Research Scientist at Finnish Research Institute SYKE.

Knuuttila cites the 60 percent drop in phosphorus loads in the Gulf of Finland since 2000, which he says is largely due to Russia's improved wastewater treatment, as evidence that much is being achieved. However, the phosphorus loads from agriculture are still a major problem.

None of the Baltic Sea states have as yet significantly reduced their agricultural nutrient loads.

"If this fails, HELCOM's (the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission's) goal of improving the ecological status of the sea will not be achieved," Knuuttila says.

The effects of the blue-green cyanobacteria on the Baltic Sea were clearly evident in the summer of 2018. While the level of algae in the water this summer has not been on the same scale, Knuuttila warns that the conditions for cyanobacteria are still rife.

"In terms of nutrition this summer, the conditions for vigorous cyanobacterial bloom are in place. The weather conditions have not been favourable for heavy cyanobacterial blooms so far, but the weather of the coming weeks may change that," says Knuuttila.

"No time to wait"

The money raised through the Moomin campaign will be channeled into conservation projects at the John Nurminen Foundation. According to the Foundation's agent Annamari Arrakoski-Engardt, one way to reduce nutrient loads is by increasing the use of gypsum treatment.

"It (gypsum treatment) can significantly reduce the nutrient loads in fields. This should be introduced in Finland in all suitable areas, and also tested in Poland and Sweden, which are major contributors to agricultural nutrient loads," says Arrakoski-Engardt, also adding that she believes the state of the Baltic Sea can be improved.

"I know that the Baltic Sea can be saved. I am concerned about whether the measures are adequate and whether the pace is fast enough. Climate change has put pressure on marine protection, and we should do more. There is no time to wait," says Arrakoski-Engardt.

Sophia Jansson believes that the Moomin characters can raise a great deal of interest in the Baltic Sea.

"Moomins usually solve things in a very harmonious and good way, and with that positive attitude, I believe that a lot can be accomplished," says Jansson.

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