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News|27 Oct, 2009

WWF comments on the adoption of the EU Baltic Sea Strategy: “An important step towards a healthy Baltic Sea.”

The poor state of the Baltic Sea environment has received attention this summer because of the extensive algal blooms caused by eutrophication and for recent scientific reports on the vast “dead zones” on the sea bottom
The poor state of the Baltic Sea environment has received attention this summer because of the extensive algal blooms caused by eutrophication and for recent scientific reports on the vast “dead zones” on the sea bottom

WWF cautions governments around the Baltic Sea not to forget the environment as the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region is adopted by the European Council today. WWF believes the Strategy has the potential to become a major step towards a clean and healthy Baltic Sea if governments follow its original intentions.

WWF has closely followed and been active in the development of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and welcomes the intention to create an integrated strategy to achieve both sustainable development and a healthy environment. WWF believes that the strategy creates a unique opportunity to secure a more integrated approach to the management of the sea and its resources.

“Yet, to ensure that the Strategy isn’t just another lofty declaration which says much on paper but delivers little in practice, it must be given the utmost priority at the highest political level and involve all sectors in an integrated process in order for the strategy to be successfully implemented, says Pauli Merriman, Director, WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme.

The macro-regional strategy, the first of its kind within Europe, is scheduled to be adopted today by the European Council at its meeting in Brussels. The added value of the Baltic Sea Strategy, beyond that of existing agreements, is its aim to achieve a more integrated approach to the management of the Baltic Sea. To be successfully implemented, this strategy must help overcome the current chaotic situation of overlapping competencies and authorities, which has lead to a situation where conflicting interests from different sectors are acting against each other rather than synergistically. The Strategy, however, still lacks adequate environmental targets to ensure a future healthy Baltic Sea.

“We hope that the countries around the Baltic Sea will now use the adoption of this strategy as an opportunity to make the necessary national arrangements to ensure integration of sea use planning and management when implementing the Strategy”, says Pauli Merriman.

“The eutrophication of the sea, caused by the excessive use of nutrients in farming, and overfishing are the two most serious threats to the Baltic Sea”, says Pauli Merriman. “It is therefore especially important that the governments in each country ensure that fisheries and agriculture policies are integrated into the strategy and that the overall implementation of the strategy is based on an ecosystem approach. This is the only way we will achieve both an integrated sustainable development and healthy environment.”

For more information on WWF and the Baltic Sea Strategy, see the attached position paper, or contact:

Pauli Merriman, Director, WWF Baltic Ecoregion Progamme
Tel. +46 767 886 185
Email. pauli.merriman@wwf.se

Editors Note:

WWF’s Position on the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region
WWF has closely followed and been active in the development of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and welcomes the intention to create an integrated strategy, across countries and policy areas, to achieve both sustainable development and a healthy environment. WWF believes that the strategy, as currently envisioned, creates a unique opportunity to secure a more integrated approach to management of the sea and its resources.

The fact that it is an EU strategy, and the high political backing it is expected to gain when adopted by the Council, will hopefully ensure a higher level of implementation of the agreed actions. It also offers a unique opportunity to forcefully strengthen the implementation of already existing conventions and agreements such as the HELCOM’s Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) and EU directives.

In order to go beyond rhetoric, however, and actually achieve a truly integrated approach to the challenges facing the Baltic Sea the strategy must:

recognize that a healthy Baltic Sea is the basis for a prosperous and attractive Baltic Sea region and take an ecosystem-based approach to the management of the sea. All human activities taking place in the Baltic Sea must be governed by, and kept within the limits of, what the ecosystem can sustain. The ecosystem approach must be the underlying principle on which the entire strategy is based.

  1. secure a strong integration between sectors, countries and administrative levels. A much stronger integration has to be secured between the strategy’s 4 objectives to avoid again creating a patchwork of separate actions and instead form one integrated strategy.
  2. address the key challenges of the Baltic Sea, such as the depletion of fisheries and the nutrient pollution through agriculture, through the relevant European policies: the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The strategy must be strongly integrated with the relevant sectoral EU policies and the Baltic Sea states must jointly work for the establishment of long term, sustainable fisheries and agriculture policies (CAP and CFP) without harmful or misdirected subsidies.
  3. recognize that maritime spatial planning is a critical tool when planning for and managing our uses of the sea. Maritime spatial planning is a concrete way to achieve both sustainable development and ecosystem protection through an integrated process and provides many benefits to both industry and nature conservation. A Baltic wide planning process and a regional platform for coordination of maritime spatial planning based on regionally adapted and agreed joint principles should be established in the region. WWF’s Position on the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region
  4. secure a strong governance and implementation mechanism. As the strategy will not provide any new money, organizations or legislations, the strategy will need to find other ways to secure that the critical actions in the strategy will be implemented. WWF believes that:
    • existing resources in the region, e.g. subsidies and funding programmes, need to be focused on the priority actions in the strategy (financial incentives for farmers and fishermen should be created to adjust their businesses to align better with the long-term health of the Baltic Sea and the region surrounding it.
    • to overcome the competency issues between sectors and give the strategy the status it deserves, the responsibility and accountability for the implementation of the strategy must be given to the European Council;
    • the European Commission must have a very strong role and make use of all possible means to secure implementation.

A strong EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region provides a fantastic opportunity to showcase a truly integrated approach to conservation and sustainable development and create a region to be proud of!

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