News|18 May, 2010

Baltic Sea states behind schedule on environment protection

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Protection of the Baltic Sea marine environment is still lacking concrete decisive actions

WWF, Moscow 19 May 2010: Implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) is lagging far behind the agreed timetable in many important areas. Protection of the Baltic Sea marine environment is still lacking concrete decisive actions. These are two main conclusion of a report produced for WWF before the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in Moscow 20 May.

The BSAP was signed by environment ministers in Krakow in 2007 and the purpose of the Ministerial Meeting in Moscow is to follow up on this plan. As the WWF report now reveals, the plan has lost momentum and lacks progress in many important areas:

Eutrophication is seen as the biggest threat to the Baltic Sea environment, with run-off from agriculture being the single biggest source of pollutants. Still, many countries lag behind on measures to reduce farm run-off. One example is the establishment of a list of hot spots concerning animal farms for extensive rearing of cattle, poultry and pigs that should have been done one year ago. In most countries this action is delayed and only Finland reports to have reviewed them. Measures aimed at substitution of phosphates in laundry detergents is another example of a very simple but important commitment, which has not yet been met by all countries. Today, only Sweden and Germany have banned phosphorus in laundry detergents and Sweden also in dishwasher detergents.

With regards to hazardous substances there is still a lack of solid baseline data about levels and sources of priority substances.

On maritime safety, implementation of actions to reduce risks from ships’ ballast water in the Baltic Sea, as well as baseline surveys of prevailing environmental conditions in major ports are late. Also, much more is needed in terms of upgrading of the port facilities to receive sewage and ship generated wastes.

Among measures to protect biodiversity, management plans for nature protection areas as well as several fish species have reportedly not been developed. Even if more than 10 percent of the Baltic Sea area is now protected, these areas do not live up to the agreed requirements on being representative and providing enough protection for threatened species.

The WWF report also highlights the late arrival of data and in many cases the complete lack of adequate information. According to the report, the information available is not of high enough quality to allow stakeholders to assess whether implementation is making progress as agreed.

“We believe that the ministers had good ambitions when they signed the BSAP in 2007” says Mats Abrahamsson, Director of the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme. “What happened is that they were not able to convince their governments when they got back home. In many cases the ambitions have been compromised by other interests.

“The only thing that can save the Baltic Sea is an expression of leadership from the highest level of government” says Mats Abrahamsson. “We don’t need more commitments – we need action!”

Note to editors:

HELCOM, the intergovernmental organisation of all the nine Baltic Sea countries and the EU, working for the protection of the Baltic marine environment, will hold the Meeting of the Ministers of the Environment of its Member States on 20 May 2010 in Moscow. The Ministers will discuss the current state of the Baltic marine environment and the implementation of a strategic Baltic Sea Action Plan to radically reduce pollution to the sea and restore its good ecological status by 2021. The HELCOM Member States are to present their National Implementation Programmes to achieve the objectives of the Baltic Sea Action Plan.

The Helcom Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) was adopted in Krakow, Poland in November 2007 by Ministers of the Environment and Senior Government Officials from the Helcom Member States and the European Community. Its original intention was to “drastically reduce pollution to the Baltic Sea and restore its good ecological status by 2021”.

The report “Analysis of the status of implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan” was prepared for WWF by Gaia Consulting OY. The full report can be downloaded below. NB! The report was completed on 14 May and several countries have made last minute submissions or changes to earlier submissions. For the latest information on the National Implementation Plans, please contact the names listed in the press release above.

The WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme is an influential force in the efforts to conserve and restore the Baltic Sea. The programme combines scientific knowledge and expertise with creative innovation and political determination to save the unique life and beauty of the Baltic Sea. A team of highly experienced international experts works to forge unprecedented regional partnerships to save the Baltic Sea.

The WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme seeks cooperation with all relevant parts of society and engages individuals, NGOs, corporations and governments – the people and organisations who, together, can make a difference. The program represents the largest membership network in the region.

The following organizations are lead partners within the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme: WWF Finland, WWF Germany, WWF Poland, WWF Sweden, Baltic Fund for Nature (Russia), Estonian Fund for Nature, Lithuanian Fund for Nature and Pasaules Dabas Fonds (Latvia)

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