Sweden's First Marine National Park Photo Gallery

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Sweden's Koster Marine National Park is the country's newest national park (bringing the total to 29; the first was established in 1909). Spanning the 800-foot-deep Kosterfjord, an impressive 6,000 underwater species call these waters home. Species include bobtail squid, bristleworms, harbor seals, and unique cold-water corals. Together with Norway's adjoining Yrte Haveler National Park, a combined 300 square miles of marine habitat in the region are now protected.  
Credit: Alistair Wearmouth 
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Koster Marine National Park is unique for the balance it must strike between habitat protection and human activities on the Koster Islands, which have been inhabited since as early as the 1300s. Outside peak summer tourist season, some 3,000 locals call the island home, with fishing and tourism the two mainstays of the economy.  
Credit: Alistair Wearmouth 
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Small-scale commercial fishing is permitted throughout the waters of the national park, with lobster, shrimp, and crab being favorite local delicacies. Lobster season starts in late September. Fisherman are happy to take visitors out on lobster "safaris" to check lobster pots anchored in locations around the Koster Islands—not to mention sample the catch!  
Credit: Alistair Wearmouth 
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On land there are few, if any, cars. The main modes of transportation are by foot, bike, or modified mopeds ('flakmoppe'). A handful of main thoroughfares connect the small communities around North and South Koster, while countless trails and gravel paths lead to hidden coves, beaches, and scenic viewpoints. The islands are about one hour by ferry from the seaside resort of Strömstad on the mainland.  
Credit: Alistair Wearmouth 
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Ursholmen is a series of rocky outcrops ('skerries') that form the southwesterly outpost of the Koster Islands. It's home to Sweden's westernmost lighthouse, providing sailors navigational aid since 1850. To the west lies the often stormy Atlantic Ocean; to the north, the mountainous coast of Norway.  
Credit: Alistair Wearmouth 
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Now automated, the two lighthouses on Ursholmen were operated by a team of three lighthousekeepers who lived on the island throughout the year. The small community consisted of accommodations for the families as well as a schoolhouse. Today the buildings are used by marine-biology researchers. It's also a popular spot for sailing, sea kayaking, and swimming throughout the summer.  
Credit: Alistair Wearmouth 
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The Koster Islands are a haven for Swedes and foreigners alike, most notably Norwegians who flock here from Oslo. Many Swedes have been vacationing here for decades, with summer homes on the islands being a prize asset. In 2009, a vacation home on North Koster Island sold for over two-million U.S. dollars.  
Credit: Alistair Wearmouth 
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Given its recent national-park designation, managing the impact of human activities on the marine ecosystem, an ever-popular holiday hot spot, is ever more important. Kosters Trädgårdar is an organic garden and restaurant that seeks to achieve and promote this balance. Run by an enterprising agronomist and biologist couple, it's a model of sustainable living plus a practitioner of the Slow Food ethos.  
Credit: Alistair Wearmouth 
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Koster Islands Marine National Park seeks to both protect and promote the biodiversity of a habitat nourished by the salty currents of the Atlantic's Norwegian trench. The park has established a self-guided snorkeling trail, plus plans are underway to build a permanent visitor center and expand access to activities such as scuba diving and sea kayaking to further showcase the full extent of the treasures these waters harbor.  
Credit: Alistair Wearmouth 
 
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