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Baltic facts and figures

Source: GRID Arendal

Extent: The Baltic Sea covers 415,266 square kilometres, while its catchment area - at 1.7 million km- extends over an area about four times as large as the sea itself.

Depth: The average depth of the whole Baltic Sea is around 50 metres. The deepest waters are in the Landsort Deep in the Baltic Proper, where depths of 459 metres have been recorded.

Catchment area: In Germany, Denmark and Poland as much as 60-70% of the Baltic's catchment area consists of farmland. Forests, wetlands and lakes make up between 65% and 90% of the catchment area in Finland, Russia, Sweden and Estonia.

Population: Over 85 million people live in the Baltic catchment area - 26% of them in large metropolitan areas, 45% in smaller urban areas, and 29% in rural areas. Population densities vary from over 500 inhabitants per square kilometre in urbanised regions of Poland, Germany and Denmark to fewer than 10 inhabitants per square kilometre in northern parts of Finland and Sweden. Almost 15 million people live within 10 kilometres of the coast.

Shipping: Around 2,000 sizeable ships are normally at sea at any time in the Baltic, including large oil tankers, ships carrying dangerous and potentially polluting cargoes, and many large passenger ferries. The Baltic Sea has some of the busiest shipping routes in the world.

Table 1: Surface areas of the Baltic Sea sub-catchment areas and total run-off in 2000

Sub-regionSurface area (km2)Run-off in 2000 (106 m3/a)
Bothnian Bay260675155480
Bothnian Sea220765124150
Archipelago Sea90003840
Gulf of Finland413100107340
Gulf of Riga12784028750
Baltic Proper574545115580
Belt Sea273656670
The Kattegat8698042380
Total catchment area 1720270584190

Source: Fourth Baltic Sea Pollution Load Compilation (PLC-4) 


Table 2: Physical characteristics of the Baltic Sea and its sub-basins

Sub-regionArea (km2)Volume (km3)Salinity range (psu)Max. Depth (m)Average depth (m)
Baltic Proper211069130455-1045962.1
Gulf of Bothnia11551663890-723060.2
Gulf of Finland2960011000-712338
Gulf of Riga163304246-10>6026
Danish Straits and Kattegatt424088028-3210918.9
Total Baltic Sea415266217210-3245952.3

Source: Towards marine landscapes in the Baltic Sea (BALANCE interim report N. 10)




Map of the sub-basins of the Baltic Sea, as defined in the HELCOM COMBINE Manual (click image to enlarge)

sub-division of Baltic Sea150dpi_800px.jpg