Greenpeace and Swedish politicians called this week for the Baltic Sea to be classified a "particularly sensitive sea area" due to damage caused by increasing traffic and illegal oil dumping.
In their appeal, published in the daily Aftonbladet, they urged the Swedish government to pressure the International Maritime Organization to accord the sea special status.
"The Baltic Sea is seriously threatened by farming, industries, traffic, sewage and other sources of discharges," they wrote.
Illegal dumping of oil and other chemicals has led to "widespread bird deaths, damage to the sea bed, high oil levels and long-lived chemicals in the water, as well as ruined coastlines."
The signatories of the appeal cited figures from the HELCOM Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, which predicted that bulk and container traffic in the Baltic Sea would rise by 300 percent in the next 15 years, while 40 percent of ships in the Baltic currently fail to meet security standards.
In addition, they pointed out, "all vessels approved by the IMO have the right to sail anywhere they want (and) bordering countries have no possibility to make demands on the ships' technical quality or the crew's training" unless the IMO declares the waters a "particularly sensitive sea area."
Four such sites already exist: the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, Cuba's Sabana-Camaguey archipelago, Malpelo Island in Colombia and the Florida Keys in the United States.
Among the signatories to the appeal were Greenpeace's Baltic Sea campaign leader Stuart Thompson, Swedish Left Party leader Gudrun Schyman, Green Party co-leader Maria Wetterstrand and Center Party leader Maud Olofsson.