Governments are failing to deliver the protection needed to sustain and restore the productivity and resilience of the natural capital in the Baltic Sea. The shortcomings are exposed in a new ‘MPA scorecard’ report released today by WWF.
This WWF ‘Scorecard’ continues WWF’s tradition of evaluating the region’s progress towards honouring their commitments – and in this case examines the progress made by the Baltic Sea countries towards the development of an ecologically coherent network of well-managed marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Baltic Sea.
“MPAs are widely considered to be an essential tool for recovering, protecting and enhancing biodiversity, maintaining productivity and increasing the resilience of ecosystems in the face of a changing climate, and for securing these benefits for current and future generations. MPAs thus form the bedrock for a truly Sustainable Blue Economy in the Baltic Sea region. Unfortunately, what is clear from the MPA Scorecard report is that despite growing interest in the ‘Blue Growth’ potential of the region, the natural capital upon which this growth is dependent is not being adequately protected nor are countries honouring their commitments to doing so,” says Mattias Rust, Acting Director Marine and Freshwater, WWF Sweden.
The Scorecard analysis evaluates Baltic Sea country delivery of some of these international and regional commitments to protect biodiversity and consists of four assessments: Meeting environmental protection commitments, MPA designation, MPA compliance and MPA management effectiveness. The assessments are based on actions taken by the nine Baltic Sea countries to deliver international commitments such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, Helsinki Commission Recommendation 35/1, and the EU Habitats Directive’s marine Natura 2000 network. The report draws conclusions from the assessments, and proposes a range of priority actions that need to be undertaken to maintain and enhance progress towards an ecologically coherent network of MPAs across the Baltic Sea.
The results of the MPA Scorecard show that individually Denmark ranks at the top end of the scale, followed by Sweden, then Finland and Germany. Denmark scored maximum points for management effectiveness and Germany for the designation of MPAs, and all four countries scored well for the delivery of environmental protection commitments. However, Denmark, Finland and Sweden’s MPA designation scores and Germany’s management effectiveness score were disappointing. Russia, Estonia and Latvia come in the middle of the scoring range, with all three countries receiving disappointingly low scores for MPA designation, and Estonia and Latvia also had low scores for management effectiveness. Lithuania and Poland received mid to low scores across all four assessments. However it should be acknowledged that both have made good progress in designating a high percentage of their territorial waters (55% and 44% respectively).
The Baltic Sea is one of the few regions of the world to have reached the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) target of 10% of coastal and marine areas being protected at the regional level. However, despite delivering the 10% global target for MPA designation across the entire Baltic Sea, the performance on MPA designation at a country level is disappointing. Three countries, Finland, Russia and Sweden, have designated an insufficient amount of their total marine area (less than 10%) and with the exception of Germany all the Baltic countries have failed to designate 10% of their Exclusive Economic Zones as committed to under the CBD Aichi Target.
“Against a backdrop of increasing demand, multiple maritime activities, and an ever more crowded marine environment, it is even more critical to ensure the protection of marine biodiversity. The overall results of the MPA Scorecard demonstrate that all countries in the region are failing to provide the protection needed to sustain a healthy Baltic Sea and thus a sustainable blue economy for the future. WWF believes that there is much that can be done to rectify the disappointing results of the assessments and to deliver an ecologically coherent network of well-managed MPAs in the Baltic Sea. Hence a list of actions has been identified in the report.,” says Pauli Merriman, WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme.
WWF believes that there is much that can be done to rectify the disappointing results of the assessments and to deliver an ecologically coherent network of well-managed MPAs in the Baltic Sea. Hence a list of actions has been identified in the report.
WWF urges Baltic Sea countries to secure an ecologically coherent network of well-managed marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Baltic Sea by:
- advancing the further designation of sites and to achieve as an absolute minimum to the Aichi Target of 10% of area protected in all territorial waters and Baltic sub-basins, and in Exclusive Economic Zones by 2020,
- delivering the World Conservation Congress Hawai’i Motion that 30% of each marine habitat should be included in systems of MPAs by 2030,
- developing effective management plans by 2020 for all MPAs in the Baltic Sea, including the one third of HELCOM MPAs currently without plans, and implementing management measures for all MPAs, including monitoring of features and sites, and
- introducing and enforcing management measures which facilitate conditional access, including restrictions on fishing activity, a minimum of 50% of the MPA network area as NTZs, and restrictions on other marine activities.
 While it is recognised that these designations all make an important contribution to the protection of biodiversity in the Baltic Sea,