The Baltic Sea is a relatively young body of water, yet it has and still is, experiencing a traumatic childhood, full of abuse and disregard for its well-being. Most of the species that inhabit this unique habitat are dying or already gone, and we embrace it. As I write this, the last specimens of a genetically unique run of Baltic Sea salmon are being hunted to extinction in front of my house by hairdressers and marine biologists alike. 

For me, the water has always been a place of immense joy, a place for solace. That joy has gradually turned into deep sadness, as I have watched politicians supporting a green future dig up vital spawning habitat for their luxury villa. As I have seen bays that used to be full of life die. As I spend my summers working with researchers, trying to collect data on dwindling fish populations, in a desperate effort to convince people who do not want to hear it, that our waters are dying and you are causing it. 

The first time I saw an actual ocean was on the east coast of the United States: Norfolk, Virginia Beach. As in any time of hardship, I sought the one constant in my life, the water. I was completely astounded by the sheer magnitude of life, under every rock a crab, in every tideline a school of redfish, farther out dolphins could be seen. I was so excited by the numbers and variety of species, that I thought nothing of taking one redfish home for dinner or grilling one crab. 

The truth dawned upon me as I spent an evening in a pub, talking to old fishers who had spent their entire lives on the Chesapeake Bay. They told me of oyster beds so big that the now murky and muddy bay was crystal clear, and reminisced over the days when there were “real” redfish.

On action week, I spent hours on the steep shoreline of the Salish Sea. As I thought of home, the one thing I missed was the Baltic Sea. I miss the feeling of being part of the system, of being at its mercy, and the sense of connection to the water. Action week was a rare occasion to reconnect. 

As humanity gets more and more disconnected from the environment that breeds us, we lose the ability to see it change over time. The few who are not blind to the change, most often Indigenous people around the world, are oppressed and ignored. Some people pretend to care, but as soon as there is an opportunity, they will eat a slab of yellowfin tuna, or consume a pound of farmed shrimp. My greatest fear in life is that the need amongst humans to consume will overcome our self-preservation instinct. That the oceans that I, and so many others, love and depend upon will cease to exist in the form we know it as today.  

“I am haunted by the water”

-Norman Maclean 

Viggo Henelius

About Viggo Henelius