Joakim Odelberg

Swedish Filmmakers expose unseen threats in Baltic Sea

Today we’d like to introduce and welcome our new Mission Blue partner, Leofilm. It’s headed up by award winning Swedish filmmakers Joakim Odelberg and Emma Watson, who are dedicated to educating others about ocean health issues, especially the issue of ghost nets. In this, our third story featuring Mission Blue partners involved in the ghost net issue, we’ll learn that not only do Joakim and Emma make the films, but they are also committed to working with fishermen and stakeholders towards a solution to the problem – called the second worst crisis in the largely landlocked Baltic Sea next to chemical dumping.

(c) Google Earth

(c) Google Earth

“From the late 50′s when we began to use synthetic material in nets and other fishing gear, 62,000 miles of nets have been put out to sea in the Baltic – and many of them have been lost. It has been approximated that 16,404 miles of nets were lost in the last 20 years, which corresponds to the length of the Baltic Sea, from north to south about 18 times.” And that does not even include the mass of debris that has already accumulated on the bottom of this long-fished body of water.

(c) Emma Watson

(c) Emma Watson

For Odelberg, it all started with his first dive with a manta ray in Thailand, “It was one of, if not the best experience I ever had, 45 lovely minutes with these gentle giants,” said Joakim. “That one dive completely changed my life and my relationship to the ocean.”

Today Joakim is one of the busiest and most respected underwater filmmakers in Sweden.  He’s frequently booked for lectures both at home and abroad, and works with organizations like WWF Sweden, Baltic Sea 2020, TV4, Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation, Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, the Nordic Council, and others.

Ghost fishing is a global problem that occurs in all oceans, lakes and rivers where fishing activities have taken place.  The depletion of fish stocks is only the tip of the iceberg. Derelict nets drift aimlessly at sea, continuing to catch fish – up to 10% the amount of fish they would have caught if they were tended by fishermen.  Non-target species are also ensnared in the nets, including sea lions, turtles, birds and other sea life. Tragically, the problem is wide-spread and worldwide. It exists on the high seas, in coastal bays, lakes, estuaries and rivers. Pretty much everywhere that we have been.

Leofilm’s documentary “Ghosts in the Baltic Sea,” funded by Baltic Sea 2020, drew attention to the problem of lost fishing gear around the Baltic Sea and was shot in the waters around Sweden, Poland and Lithuania with footage from both above and below the surface.

Shooting is now underway on a sequel. “We had not dared hope for the massive impact we got with our first film “Ghosts in the Baltic Sea.” Now we have the chance to show the positive effects from the awareness raised since the release of our first film. The problems are still there and now we are embarking on a new journey around the Baltic Sea to continue documenting what has happened since we last visited, and to see what more can be done,” says Odelberg.

You go, LeoFilm! We’re proud to have you as new members of the Mission Blue family!

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