Climate change: How it affects coral reefs

-By Christoffer Nilsson


A coral is an invertebrate animal with its skeleton on the outside, similar to shellfish. The corals extract calcium and carbonate from the seawater to build their skeleton. They live in symbiosis with a photosynthetic algae called “zooxanthellae”, which means that they benefit from each other. The algae produce sugars for the coral, and corals produce nutrients for the algae.

In tropical areas, coral reefs are very sensitive and are easily affected by climate change, specifically by rising seawater temperature and acidification of the oceans. Just 1-2 degrees change in sea water temperature affects the corals, causing them to expel the algae “zooxanthellae” making the coral turn completely white (bleaching). The corals can survive this if seawater temperature goes back to normal quickly. Coral reefs are very important to the marine environment as almost a third of all marine species live there. About 60% of the all the world’s reefs are estimated to be at risk due to climate change.

Since coral reefs host home for a third of all marine species it also plays an important role for humans living in these areas as they provide food for them. Nearly 500 million people depend in some way by coral reefs through fishing tourism or protection. I can only imagine what would happen if the reefs started to diminish even more. The situation is much worse than I previously knew. Even if the article states that around 500 million people are affected in some way I think the entire ecosystem will be gravely affected by the diminishing coral reefs which means that everyone on the planet is affected.
The article does not mention anything about how tourism and scuba diving affects the corals reefs but it is not hard to conclude that climate change is the biggest threat to the coral reefs.

Scuba divers may damage corals locally, but dive-related damages are usually quite small so the impact on the marine ecosystem as a whole is relatively low. Scuba divers are often restricted to specific areas and when comparisons have been made to areas where little or no scuba diving is being carried out the damages are the same. Tourism however is a bigger concern and scuba diving is in a way a part of this. Tourism increases global warming since a lot of “transportation” of people is being carried out, people are travelling the world in much greater scale every year which contributes to increased emissions of greenhouses gases.




Medicines affects the environment

-Josefin Johansson


Substances in medicines leak to the sea and make impact on fishes

The first time I heard about fish getting affected by medicine was in a tv programme a few years ago. I heard that birth control pills made, I think it was bass, infertile. They also mentioned that other medicines had other affects I cannot recall but I remember I found it interesting at the time. However, I have not heard so much about this subject since that tv programme. But a few weeks ago I heard about fish getting affected by anti-anxiety medicine on the news. This week, in order to write this week’s post about the environment and the sea, I searched for more information about this research on the web.

According to one article from DT, Dalarnas tidningar, written in January this year, new research from Umeå University is showing that fish, in this case salmon, that is exposed to anti-anxiety medicine are more likely to swim from rapids/streams to the ocean at an earlier stage than non-exposed fish. This is believed to be due to reduced fear among the salmons exposed to medicine. The experiments on the salmons were made in a laboratory with the same concentrations of medicine as found in southern Europe. In Sweden, this distribution isn’t as bad since our leakages to the environment isn’t near the amount that can be found in Italy for example.

In the newspaper DN we can read that the concentrations of the substances in fish is about 100-200 times more concentrated than in the human body. Even if the medicine is diluted when mixed with sea or ocean water it is not hard finding remains of medicine when water tests are made according to the newspaper Sydsvenskan. Scientists also found that the salmon trouts living near the outflow from the cleaning facilities have a higher concentration of hormones than women taking birth control pills. In Sydsvenskan you can also read that British studies have shown an increase in sex change or infertility for fishes living near such facilities.

The Environmental Protection Agency, Naturvårdsverket, claims that there are over a thousand active substances in different medicines in Sweden today, and new substances are introduced every year. They also say that there is still a lot more to learn about the biological effects by medicine in the ecosystems due to inadequate knowledge in this field of study. The leaking of medicines to the seas and oceans are not only affecting fish in the way described above, it is a human and environmental threat if multiresistant bacteria get the opportunity to evolve.

According to Gustav Hellström in DT, improvements in cleaning techniques at the cleaning facilities is preferred, instead of reduce the usage of medicines. In 2017 Naturvårdsverket have, by order of the Swedish government, to present advanced ways to clean sewage water. Malmö County was in May 2016 taking actions against medicine in the waters according to Sydsvenskan. Trials with ozone removing technology have started off in one cleaning facility but more facilities waits for further trials. A major drawback for most municipalities when doing these investments is that the costs of improved cleaning technology is hard to forecast. When comparing with other countries that invested in clean water, such as Switzerland and Germany, the households would need to pay about 700 kr each year for better water cleaning systems. According to Carina Svensson, Sydsvenskan, the best way to take care of the problem is to demand responsibility through tougher legislation for the medical companies.

I believe it is a real challenge to face the fact that new substances continuously are entering the medicine market (and thus the oceans) because this means that new separation technologies for sewage water are needed almost non-stop. I believe more general knowledge to the public is a vital part for people to accept that these cleaning investments are needed.

Also, more knowledge about what might happen to our ecosystems are needed so that we can protect particularly vulnerable species or areas. Medicine in the waters is uncontrolled and an important factor for our seas and oceans wellbeing.


DN 2007

DT 2017

Naturvårdsverket 2017

Sydsvenskan 2016


Alternative fuel and energy solutions for ships gaining momentum

-Niklas Blume


Now you might ask yourself how this affects you. There is a concern in the world over the use of oil, the effects of oil with air and seaborne emissions. How long we will have oil available? Most ships in the world consume large amount of fuel every year contributing to pollution and depletion of oil reserves. Due to stricter regulations of pollution in many areas there is now a bigger pressure on companies to find solutions to the high sulfur fuels and since low sulfur fuel is much more expensive, the alternatives available have become more interesting and financially sound.

Many ships have installed scrubbers, which is essentially a device that removes pollution from the exhaust and stores it in tanks, to be either dumped in the ocean or landed ashore. This is not the alternatives I am referring to.

I am referring to the increased use of LNG fueled ships. There are now for example 13 cruise vessels with LNG power in order up to 2026, according to Cruise Industry News. This might not appear that much considering the total numbers of orders, but a few years ago the numbers of orders were zero.

Parallel with LNG powered ships there is also an increased interest for rotor sails as an auxiliary power source. The rotor sail is basically a rotating cylinder that generates power in a direction based on the wind. This means that engines can be used with reduced power and both lower emissions as well as fuel savings are accomplished. This technology is somewhat limited to ships with deck space, small height restrictions in itinerary and also enough time at sea to make the sail count.

The recent examples seen are Viking Grace that already runs on LNG and will now add a rotor sail. Maersk will make a trial on a large product tanker with rotor sails. As far as LNG power goes, Carnival Corporation, with 102 cruise vessels in the fleet has ordered 4 ships planned for LNG power to add to a few existing ones. Unfortunately the changes only come when regulations get stricter and operations are effected financially, but nevertheless there is progress and I believe this is just a start.

As an added note it can be mentioned that HH-ferries are about to install battery power to run two of their ferries solely on electric power this coming summer. Good initiative!



Cruise ship companies is picking up speed in their commitments towards sustainability

-Ellinor Forsström


A Royal Caribbean cruise ship

For a long time, cruise companies have been characterized by limited environmental achievements due to favorable oil prices and fierce competition in the market. Even though the operators have made several sustainability pledges this has remained one of the worst sectors in maritime transport when it comes to environmental impact. The negative behaviors of the cruise industry includes several aspects where poor waste management, high energy demand, oil spills, high emissions and contribution to the degradation of aquatic ecosystems only are a few. However this also indicates that there is a huge opportunity for cruise companies to step up their game and improve their sustainability policies and introduce cleaner technology. This is the opinion of Dietmar Oeliger, head of environmental policy at German environmental NGO Nabu, which he stated in an article in the Guardian. He also emphases that lowering the emissions and pollution from cruise ships is not just an environmental issue, it also is of grave importance to ensure the wellbeing of the passengers.

One of the main reasons for this negative pattern according to the article is the low environmental standards for the shipping industry that also includes cruise ships. However a new IMO legislation is coming by 2020 which puts more pressure on this part of the shipping industry to reduce their emissions. This forces more and more of the cruise companies to use cleaner technologies and consider alternative fuels to be able to comply with the new policies. The article shows many examples on how this positive strive towards sustainability are starting to show within the industry. For example, the use of so called scrubbers becomes more common as a way to reduce the sulfur content in the exhaust gases. This is already a well-established technique and even more ambitious changes are happening today. Especially when it comes to alternative fuels. Several of the leading cruise companies, including Royal Caribbean and Carnival group, has started the transition away from heavy oil towards LNG. RC has even taking it one step further and is planning to introduce fuel-cell-technologies in their vessels. The work towards completely renewable fuels in the cruise ship industry is also moving forward. Two of the companies that has entered this field is the Norwegian cruise liner Hurtigrutten that has ordered two hybrid ferries and also the company Color line that has planned for a plug-in-hybrid cruise liner. Meanwhile has the Finish company Viking line started to look into the possibility to use wind power in collaboration with the energy company Norsepower.

I think the article has many layers and shows in a clear way the need of a stricter policy-making when it comes to the cruise industry. However it also empathizes the importance that the industry and politics must work together to reach a common goal without suffocating each other on the road to success.


The change in sea level will affect Sweden

– Tobias Hedin



In a report from October 2012, scientists describe the results from a study about the Swedish coastal municipalities’ preparations for the expected rise of the sea level. 23 of the 33 municipalities that participated had a plan which extends until 2100. Almost one third of the participating municipalities had no plan at all. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sent out a draft report stating that the rise of the sea level will be somewhere between 30 centimetres and one meter. We will have to think outside the box to protect our cities from being flooded. Some people suggest moving whole cities; others think that one solution is to embank them.

Lake Mälaren is Sweden’s third largest lake. The water is brackish from which 2 million people get their drinking water. With a rise of the sea level, Lake Mälaren risks to get mixed with sea water, contributing to flooding of Mälardalen. This will have a big effect on the infrastructure in the area. Also healthcare, central heating, drain and other social functions will be affected.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Monitors the changes in sea level via their satellites and they report on their website, an annual rise of the sea level with 3.4 millimetres.



American Lobster – A threat against the European Lobster?

-Christoffer Nilsson


If the lobsters were to be transported frozen by ships instead of live by airfreight, emissions could be significant reduced. It would also reduce the risk of out-competing the European lobster and eliminate the risk of spreading diseases.

American lobsters are imported in great numbers to the European market and only in Sweden about 2-300 tons live lobsters are imported each year. The American export market is worth about 200 million dollars each year.

Since the lobsters are exported live, they must be kept alive in tanks or by other means. When they are sold to restaurants in Sweden they are sometimes kept in cages or nets in the ocean on the West coast of Sweden even though it is illegal to do so. Since 2008 around 36 American lobsters have been caught or found out in the wild and researchers believe that they have escaped from the illegal cages/nets.

Since the American lobster is a different species than the European lobster, researchers fear that they will carry diseases and/or parasites, which can have a great impact on the European lobster population. Researchers have also found that the different species can mate with each other and create hybrids. Researchers at the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen have been able to prove that both male and female hybrids have in some cases become fertile. This is believed to be a serious threat against the European lobster since both the American lobster and the hybrids may out-compete the native European lobster.

The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management is working for a ban on the import of the American lobster, which will eliminate the problem before it is too late. During the spring of 2016 Sweden handed in a proposition to the European commission suggesting to include the American lobster on the list of invasive species. This list is a part of the EU-commission regulation 1143/2014 which main purpose is to address “the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species” (EU Regulation 1143/2014 on Invasive Alien Species page.1). This regulation entered into force the 1st of January 2015.

The proposition was unfortunately turned down by the European commission, which did not assess this as a serious problem.
If you catch an American lobster in Sweden you should immediately call “The institute of marine research, SLU” in Lysekil, they will then arrange for a pick-up of the lobster and you will be rewarded with 500-1000SEK depending on size of the lobster. The largest one reported so far weighed about 2kg which is a quite large lobster. I think that the only solution to restrict the spreading of the American lobster is to prohibit import of live lobsters from America.


Whale fishing – Outdated and irresponsible or overrated danger?

-Niklas Blume

333 Minke Whales killed in this year’s research season by Japan alone. That must be some extensive research going on. Sounds like much? In fact, these 333 are the number of whales that Japan has hunted for this year’s season and they just returned home after fulfilling their quota for research whale fishing.

Can we honestly say that it is within modern standards to fish whale? It is hard to say if the quota of 333 has any significant impact on the Minke Whales as there are between 300.000 and 400.000 of them in the wild, but it remains a large number only to do research on. Where does the meat go?
The issue might rather be the fact that we allow hunting of a species that are threatened in many ways. Does this research benefit us in any way?


Fact is that international organisations such as UN has banned japans “scientific program” of whale hunting, but Japan says it’s not applicable to them. Can more be done to get through to Japan and change their mind? Perhaps it is the other way around and it is the rest of the world that needs to be educated on the actual research benefits of Japans whale hunt. Many of the animals killed are not grown and yet the fishing fleet is gloating over their success. A Minke whale has a 10-month gestation period and the only live for 50 years, much shorter than other whales. Once a dip in the species numbers happens the time to recuperate is quite long. Latest numbers in the population suggests they are decreasing, however data collection is to large parts deficient. Some numbers suggest that the population has gone down almost 60% the last 40 years, but for then unknown causes.

One would think that in modern days with all sanctions and programs in place, whaling would be a thing of the past. Regardless of the right or wrong in this question, is it in line with todays ecological and wildlife protection efforts to continue with the killings?

I think it would be interesting to get the real facts and figures for and against these actions. As previously mentioned there are deficiencies in the counting of whales for one and perhaps not enough information of what kind of research is being done from the killed whales to really have an educated opinion. Last of all let’s not forget that Norway and other nations fishermen also catches these whales.