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News|08 Mar, 2011

Ministers Failing to Prioritize the Baltic Sea

Baltic algae
A phytoplankton (algal) bloom fills much of the Baltic Sea. Summer 2005.

When Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) holds its annual meeting today, it will include a ‘high-level’ segment, to address the challenges and progress towards achieving the targets of the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP). This ‘high-level’ segment unfortunately will not include Ministers, sends a distressing signal that countries are not giving the BSAP the priority that it needs.

‘While we have heard Environmental Ministers around the Baltic Sea talk about the importance of the BSAP, their actions speak louder. Given the lack of significant progress in implementing the needed actions in the BSAP it is clear that strong leadership is needed. We therefore urge Ministers to give the BSAP the high-level focus it needs’, says Håkan Wirtén, CEO of WWF Sweden and Chair of the WWF Baltic Sea Ecoregion Programme.

Today’s meeting provides an opportunity for countries to report on the progress and challenges in the implementation of the BSAP, which was launched four years ago with much fanfare as ‘an ambitious programme to restore the good ecological status of the Baltic marine environment by 2021’.

‘While it is encouraging to see that some important areas of progress are being achieved such as in building and upgrading waste water treatment plants and in the ongoing designation of the Baltic Sea as a Special Area for sewage under the MARPOL Convention, after nearly four years since the signing of the BSAP, overall progress is much too slow and concrete actions are still too few to reach the ambitious goals of the BSAP’, says Håkan Wirtén.

WWF and CCB will make a joint statement at the meeting urging countries to go beyond their rhetoric by delivering the actions needed to deliver real progress.

‘HELCOM has outlined where actions are needed and financial institutions have made funding available. Now, all that is missing is the political will of countries to take the initiative and implement the concrete actions necessary to reduce nutrient input from agriculture, to control the spread of hazardous substances, to reduce the impacts from fisheries and to protect biodiversity. Words are no longer sufficient – WWF urges Baltic Sea Governments to act, and act fast, to protect the Baltic Sea Marine Environment,’ says Pauli Merriman, Director of the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme.

Notes:

HELCOM, the intergovernmental organisation of all the nine Baltic Sea countries and the EU, working for the protection of the Baltic marine environment. HELCOM launched the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) 2007 to radically reduce pollution to the Baltic Sea and restore its good ecological status by 2021.

WWF participated as an official observer to the annual meeting and ‘high-level’ segment today, and in a statement made on behalf of the environmental NGOS, stated its concern on the lack of strong leadership and actions which are needed to achieve its objectives.

WWF and Coalition Clean Baltic Joint Statement on the HELCOM is available on www.panda.org/baltic For detail on the background , goals and objectives of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan please visit: http://www.helcom.fi/BSAP/en_GB/intro/

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