1 – 11.8. Friends of the Baltic organized a youth educational trip round Estonia, Finland and Russia. The tour was part of the seminars under the title “Three Countries – Three Islands”. Young people from the three countries stayed at the islands of Aegna (Estonia), Suomenlinna (Finland) and Krestovsky (Russia). During the trip, the young acquainted themselves with the natural values of the shores and islands of the Gulf of Finland, learned, what environmental threats the gulf is facing and heard also about the practical measures to protect it. Experts from the three countries held seminars on the islands, concentrating on the problems of eutrophication, biodiversity, sea transport, fishery, etc.
In Tallinn, the young stayed at the island Aegna, which has a unique nature and three square kilometers in area. It is one of the biggest islands in Estonia. There are still military buildings remains in the island, and like in many other countries, the nature in the former military areas has remained intact. There are areas in the island with limited access to avoid disturbing the animals. Endangered white-tailed eagle lives in one of these areas. However, most part of the island is open to visitors and places for camping and building campfire are marked.
The city of Tallinn has a beautiful waterfront with bicycle lanes, cafes and parks. However, according to the local citizens, because of the eutrophication and the decomposing algae, the smell along the shore is terrible in the summer. It is a significant problem to the citizens, but they principally also hold the keys to the solution: they could give up using detergents with phosphates and farmers could stop using mineral fertilizers. Organic farming is actually now coming more popular in Estonia.
In Helsinki the young activists had the chance to visit several islands. At the nature school in the island Harakka, the young formed groups to study nature:
1) plants and insects
2) chemistry laboratory
3) sea inhabitants
When studying the sea inhabitants, the group came upon an invasive invertebrate species spiny water flea (Cercopagis pengoi). Aquatic invasive species are typically carried to a new location along with ships and they can cause serious damage to the local ecosystem.
In Helsinki, the young visited also the zoo, which also happens to be situated on an island. Initially, the island was supposed to serve as a recreation area, but instead became the location for a large zoo. The young ecologists were lucky enough to meet by coincidence the mayor of Helsinki, Jussi Pajunen. The mayor had lunch with the tour participants in a common cafeteria not far from the city hall. He greeted the group of young ecologists and wished them a good trip. The mayor sees environmental issues as a priority. Environment Centre operates as one part of the city administration, and is in charge of several nature schools, including the one in the island Harakka.
In St. Petersburg the participants drove by bus along the Neva Bay shoreline. They saw places with beautiful nature that are under threat because of the surrounding ports. The young tried to take a look at the nature reserve Plavni Kronkolonii from the dam, but couldn’t see anything but the new area of Bronko port.
At the shore sides of Neva Bay, where there are practically no beaches, the natural park of Western Kotlin is seen as something extraordinary – it is a beach with clean sand and water, with a view to the bay, a place, where everybody can come and relax.
The Northern Coast of Neva Bay nature reserve made a great impression to the participants with its rich nature, bird sounds from the reeds, and the beautiful strip of forest between the sea and the road.
The participants of the environmental tour visited the Museum of Water. The guests were impressed with the exhibitions and with the Youth Environmental Centre, but made nevertheless a discouraging question: “If you are carrying out such a thorough and serious educational program, then why can’t you drink water from the tab?”
The finale event was held at the Ecology and Biology Centre “Krestovsky Island”, where the young ecologists presented their suggestions for the personal actions everybody could take to improve the condition of the Gulf of Finland.
Their suggestions will be included in the Youth Declaration on the Protection of the Gulf of Finland that will be presented to the leaders of the three countries at the Festival of the Gulf of Finland in September 2014.
The youth tour and the seminars ”Three Countries – Three Islands” are organized with support from The Nordic Council of Ministries.
Organizers in Russia: Friends of the Baltic in cooperation with the Ecology and Biology Centre “Krestovsky Island”, SUE “Vodokanal of St. Petersburg” and the Baltic Fund for Nature; in Estonia: Environment Department of the city of Tallinn; in Finland: Environment Centre of the city of Helsinki and The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE).