Wetland Fladen Utö – a successful example of local action & engagement for a healthier Baltic Sea

Wetland Fladen Utö is a wetland project established on Utö, an island located in the archipelago of Stockholm. The project was initiated by Thomas Hjelm, a resident on Utö, who had raised concern about the decreasing number of fish and the increasing eutrophication in the bays of Utö since the mid-1990s.

The trigger for action was inspiration from another project
The final trigger to create Wetland Fladen was a constructed wetland and pike factory in Kagghamra. Wetlands can act as ‘pike factories’, as they provide a  suitable reproduction area for pike fish, with proven results. The wetland in Kagghamra saw a rapid i increase in pike stock, that inspired Thomas to look for potential places for establishing a similar project on Utö. As soon as the financial support was granted, the wetland was built in partnership with Haninge municipality.

Getting local stakeholders on board through communication was key
Communication and sharing information in the local paper and the social media have played an essential role in getting local stakeholders involved in the project, according to Thomas. Today, the local community is very engaged and interested in the project and the potential impact from it. The project has already shown to be successful – it has resulted in increased fish stocks, increased water transparency and reduced phosphorous loading into the surrounding water.

Looking to the future - increasing visitors and fish
Wetland Fladen is still under development and the future plans entail making the area attractive for visitors, building a bird spotting tower, widening the fish staircase and establishing a fish count trap. Further, and idea of taking up sediments from outside the wetland has come up. The purpose of this would be to create a favorable environment for fish and to enable them to play and reproduce also in the Baltic Sea.

Wetland Fladen as a proof of concept
According to Thomas, the wetland can be a proof of concept for improving local waters, and can be demonstrated to visitors on Utö. It has shown the potential of local engagement to impact the environmental health of the Baltic Sea. And, making an impact will not end here, as more wetlands or pike factories and other environmental efforts are in the pipeline for the future.