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Newsletter|10 Dec, 2021

WWF Baltic Newsletter – December 2021

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In this edition:

Editorial: Taking stock

Contact: Hannah Griffiths Berggren and Valerie de Liedekerke

As we wrap up another year that has in many ways been defined by the three converging challenges of our time – human health, biodiversity loss and climate change – it is worth taking stock of what is working well, or at least going in the right direction.

In the Baltic region over the past 6 months, the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) has been updated and contains some important measures that offer governments the chance to take meaningful action. Nutrient run-off is a key area of both concern and opportunity which has been addressed to some extent by improved measures (more work is both needed and underway!) and is a topic on which the Baltic Farmer of the Year continues to blaze a new path forward with their success in agricultural innovation.

Innovation for sustainability has been a consistent Baltic theme this year. From biohuts in the Copenhagen harbour and seal-friendly fishing nets in the Gulf of Finland, to partnerships with different types of business and non-traditional actors in various countries, WWF and partners are testing and pushing the traditional boundaries. This all fits well into the EU’s imminent plans to set legally binding nature restoration targets to restore biodiversity and degraded ecosystems, not a moment too soon.

One key takeaway from the climate change COP26 last month was the need for action. We have the science, the evidence and the ticking clock; now is the time for decision makers to step bravely forward and honour their multiple commitments with action. We hear this in the context of the updates being made by UNEP FI to its guidance on the principles for a Sustainable Blue Economy. We see this in the specific calls made by civil society on Baltic governments to realize this BSAP for the health of our marine environment and the people that depend upon it.

Non-governmental organizations continue to have an important role to connect the dots across these context topics, to maintain the focus on the priorities, and keep the pressure on to ensure the outcomes we need. Equally, businesses, communities and individuals each have their role to play. 

We hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter, and perhaps even find yourself and your role in it too.

Best wishes from the WWF Baltic programme secretariat, Valerie de Liedekerke, Programme Manager and Interim Director (left) and Hannah Griffiths Berggren, Communications manager.


Policy Special: The Baltic Sea Action Plan updated

Contact: Vanessa Ryan

Over the past two years, the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme and Coalition Clean Baltic have teamed up to influence the process of updating the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP). The original BSAP, adopted in 2007, aimed for reaching good environmental status by 2021. The new target has been set for 2030. With its nearly 200 measures, the updated BSAP is a product of countless working group meetings, thousands of working hours spent, and the usual sprinkle of political compromise.


Vanessa Ryan from WWF Finland presenting the joint NGO ministerial statement at the HELCOM ministerial meeting

Environmental NGOs published a shadow plan in early 2020, and continued working for more ambitious action, stricter deadlines, and proper implementation right through to the HELCOM ministerial meeting in October where the plan was adopted.

The updated plan follows the structure of the previous one, with actions grouped in four main sections: biodiversity, eutrophication, hazardous substances, and sea-based activities. It features many valuable actions, such as designating 30% of the Baltic Sea as marine protected areas by 2030, of which one third should be strictly protected. However, contracting parties did not seize the opportunity to make the commitments needed to ensure the full ecosystem-based management of the Baltic Sea. Such commitments could have included a ban on seabed mining, a phase-out of all oil and gas production, and a ban on both commercial and recreational eel fisheries.

It isn’t perfect, but the implementation of the updated BSAP is critically important for scaling up efforts to improve the status of the Baltic Sea. The full and speedy implementation of the plan must therefore be ensured. This means that the poor track record of implementation of the 2007 plan cannot be repeated.

To better guarantee a healthy future Baltic Sea, we are asking that HELCOM contracting parties, in their implementation of the BSAP:

  • define the Baltic as a pilot marine region to be fully ecosystem-based managed, including all sea-based human activities;
  • commit to cut nutrient run off to levels well below nutrient input ceilings;
  • ensure adaptation to and mitigation of the effects of climate change, and that all other pressures on the environment are kept to a minimum;
  • reiterate their commitments to reaching global environmental goals like the Agenda 2030, Convention on Biological Diversity, Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris Agreement;
  • ensure full funding for and implementation of the updated BSAP and commit to this within government programmes and national budgets, aligning with green recovery post-Covid; and 
  • agree to a stronger implementation plan with uniform reporting requirements and benchmarks to reach net zero by 2050 or sooner.


One-on-one with Dennis Fritsch

In this edition of the newsletter we interview Dennis Fritsch, who leads the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Initiative at the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI). He tells us about his work on the Sustainable Blue Economy and the role of the finance community in achieving this goal.


Dennis Fritsch, UNEP FI

What is the purpose of the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) Sustainable Blue Economy (SBE) Finance Principles and what do you hope to achieve?

We are building a global community of banks, insurers and investors to bring forward the development of the SBE. Specifically, we are supporting the implementation of the SBE Finance Principles which aim to direct the flow of capital to activities that directly contribute to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14), Life Below Water. The principles have been around since 2018 and are the first global framework to finance the SBE.

We are working with WWF and other partners to produce usable industry resources and tools. There is a practical “blue finance” toolkit, available free from the UNEP FI website, called “Turning the Tide”, which covers five sectors: seafood, shipping, ports, marine renewable energy and coastal tourism. It is intended to help decision makers learn how to avoid and mitigate environmental and social impacts, and how to make the most of the opportunities of SBE. It highlights activities which we recommend to avoid financing because they are simply too harmful and high risk; which ones to seek out as best practice; and where and how to expand financial flows towards best practice.

An updated version of the guidance is now in development, with an expanded thematic scope to include plastics & waste management, and coastal infrastructure & resilience. It will be launched in March 2022. 

What needs to be done to secure a sustainable blue economy and why is the finance community important to achieve this?

Despite growing momentum among the finance community around the blue economy, SDG14 remains the most underfunded SDG. This is partly due to a poor understanding of ocean-related risks and opportunities for the finance sector. To mobilize finance, understanding that major global industries depend on and impact the ocean’s health is fundamental.

Collectively, investors have an enormous impact on ocean health, as they provide the resources required to power ocean-linked sectors. Building resilience and long-term stability into marine industries offers opportunities to financial players in reducing risks and ensuring that their activities provide long-term viability and profitability.  

The guidance exists, for free and open access. The focus now needs to be on implementation. We are working with membership on this front now. Beyond UNEP FI membership, awareness is slowly building, but much more awareness raising and expertise is needed.

How can financial institutions and organizations working towards a sustainable blue economy help shape the future of finance?

In terms of general economic risks, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that climate-induced declines in ocean health will cost the global economy almost US$2 trillion per year by the end of the century. A business-as-usual scenario would potentially imply up to US$8.4 trillion in costs to the global economy over the next 15 years, according to a recent WWF report. Investors should be aware of increased default risks, reputational damage, non-compliance with growing stringent environmental legislations, and reduced returns to investments in the long run.

The decline in ocean health is not just an environmental and social challenge – it is also an economic opportunity. There is a clear business case for a transformation of ocean-linked sectors to a sustainable blue economy. This is the number one priority.

How can the UNEP FI SBEFP accelerate the transition towards sustainable use of the world’s ocean resources?

In order to make efficient financial decisions, investors and other financial institutions need to have access to reliable and updated info on ocean-related economic risks and opportunities. The SBE Finance Principles, the Turning the Tide Guidance and its Exclusion List offer a pioneering guiding framework to align global financial flows with SDG14. We are further convening a community of practice on this topic, focusing on creating a peer-to-peer learning environment where we regularly share case studies and experiences in implementing the Principles and Guidance from across our membership.

What is holding back progress towards achieving a sustainable blue economy?

To date, traditional instruments and approaches make up the majority of finance flows to ocean-linked sectors. Sustainable blue finance criteria and principles remain insufficiently linked into these. This integration is critical to really move the needle. For banks in particular, for example, such criteria need to be used in loan books. There is also at present a dearth of internal expertise on the topic, within the finance sector.

These things are important. Additionally, there needs to be more of a sense of urgency on the part of the finance sector as a whole to take immediate, practical steps to implement the guidance and reset the future course.

We need to scale up action to mainstream holistic sustainability considerations that are based on science and include equity and justice concerns across ocean-linked sectors. Investors have great leverage in pushing for such transformation. Using currently available tools, they can already start evaluating their impact on the ocean in order to reduce the damage unsustainable industries have on our marine life support system. I therefore encourage them to show leadership by using the SBE Finance Principles and joining our community of practice in order to align financial flows with ocean health. 



2021’s Baltic Sea Farmers Award

Contact: Anu Suono

On 29 October, farmers with winning innovations from across the Baltic region were presented with the WWF Baltic Sea Farmer Award. The award recognizes the exemplary use of sustainable farming practices to reduce nutrient runoff to the Baltic Sea catchment. 


Sauli Brander, 2021 Regional Baltic Farmer Award winner

This year, farmers from 11 countries within the Baltic catchment area were awarded for their exceptional efforts. Sauli Brander, a Finnish organic crop farmer, received the grand prize of €10,000 for measures that range from maintaining built wetlands and planting intercrops, to practicing nutrient recycling with chicken manure.

Situated alongside Lake Vesijärvi, in the midst of lush forests and ancient hunting grounds once accessed via waterways, Brander’s Lisko Farm has a well-established tradition of producing crops with due respect for the surrounding environment.

When Brander took over the farm in 2005, a number of protective measures were already in practice. The first wetlands were constructed in the 1990s to treat water and improve its quality. Ponds to allow the water to settle and protective strips of vegetation alongside water bodies were in use, as was a minimum tillage system to ensure the soil was not being overly worked – all measures that Brander and his family were happy to carry forward.

“After the first catchment pond was built and the visual effects were seen, we wanted to continue sustainable practices so we could leave the lake and field in even better condition for the next generations,” says Brander.

The Award jury was impressed by the wide range of measures employed on the farm to reduce nutrient leakage, as well as the engagement with the community to share best practices and exchange learnings with other farmers.

“Every farm has a unique location. Farmers should seek out best practices that fit their fields and environments. By listening to others, you can improve your own understanding of best practices and pick up the most important ones,” says Brander.

“Of course, I am pleased to have the honor of winning the Baltic Sea Farmer Award, but nothing special has been invented on the farm,” says Sauli. “We’ve studied the latest research and other farmers’ practical experiments and implemented those best practices.”

As for future plans, Sauli says they are looking forward to developing the farm further with a focus on enhancing diversity and improving self-sufficiency and economics.

An award for farmers with an eye on the sea

The WWF Baltic Sea Farmer Award was launched in 2009 to highlight best practices and recognize farmers who are leading the way to reduce nutrient runoff across the region. Since 2009, some 80 farmers around the Baltic Sea have received the award for innovative sustainability measures.

Applications are received from farmers residing in countries within the Baltic Sea catchment who are practicing both organic and conventional farming, as well as many different types of agriculture. Participating countries include Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Belarus, and Ukraine.

The national winners are chosen by juries in each country and receive a prize of €1,000 each. From the pool of national winners, an international jury then selects a regional winner who receives a grand prize of €10,000. So far, about 80 farmers from around the Baltic Sea have been awarded for their efforts and use of innovative measures.

This year’s winning farms are diverse in size and type, ranging from a small organic farm enterprise to an 860 ha conventional crop farm. Each farmer has their own unique story about the methods tested and implemented to reduce nutrient runoff to the Baltic Sea. Learn more about the competition and this year’s winners in our new digital brochure.

Cutting nutrient inputs to the Baltic

Contact: Kertu Hool

Most of the countries around the Baltic have failed to make adequate cuts in their nutrient inputs to the sea. While some progress has been made over the years, it is far from sufficient and most of our sea is still affected by eutrophication.

Among the HELCOM Contracting Parties who have neglected to implement the eutrophication part of the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP), Estonia’s nitrogen run-off has actually increased since accession to the EU in 2004.

During the October negotiations to update the BSAP, Estonia repeatedly put the brakes on discussions around nutrient input. The Estonian Fund for Nature (ELF) worked hard toward improving the national position, thus helping to avoid derailing the process. Input ceilings, or upper limits, of nutrient inputs have now been adopted in the updated BSAP. 

All’s well that ends well? The adoption of the updated BSAP is in fact just the beginning. Countries need to at last implement the promised cuts in nutrient run-off. Among other things, this connects with strategic plan preparations for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). ELF has put significant effort into the CAP strategic plan preparation to turn the tide for nutrient run-off.

This has had the positive result of some important measures being included in the plan. As under previous rural development plans, there is support for organic farming, this time as an eco-scheme. Local monitoring in Estonia has proven that organic farming results in lower nutrient run-off. There are, however, significant doubts if the budget for this measure is sufficient.

Other measures such as conversion from arable to grassland and the introduction of wider buffer strips, as well as measures to reduce environmental impact of drainage, are also welcome. ELF will continue to engage in improving the design of these measures. 

Nonetheless, all of this is insufficient. The most efficient way to address nutrient run-off from intensive farms is through calculating and improving the nutrient balance. The authorities have thus far postponed the introduction of this measure. This is a priority for the final stages of CAP strategic plan preparation.

Awareness is rising – but so is consumption

The ELF organized a second consumer survey in Estonia to track the shifts in national fish consumption over the last five years. We see positive changes but they are slow. The baseline study showed very low awareness of environmental problems relating to fish and that  people mainly choose fish and seafood according to price and freshness. That said, awareness of the environment as a third important criterion has increased. There is still a long road to sustainable fish consumption in Estonia, but the trend is in the right direction.

Conserving freshwater pearl mussels to restore the rivers

Contact: Tatiana Ivanova

The cross border Russian-Finnish project, RiverGo, has realized large-scale restoration of salmonid spawning grounds on the Finnish side of the Vuoksi River and its tributaries.  The Volchja is one potential salmonid river for restoration of spawning areas and construction of a fish passage at the dam. A 50 kilometer tributary of the Vuoksi, it is habitat for salmonid fish such as the brown trout and the grayling. Recently a new reason emerged to prioritize restoration measures.


Dam on river Volchja. Photo credit: Tatiana Ivanova

Large populations of freshwater pearl mussels (Margaritifera margaritifera, an estimated 50,000 individuals) live in the river. Freshwater pearl mussels are an endangered species in Europe, included on the IUCN Red Lists and protected both nationally and internationally. Population of the mussel in the Volchja River was unknown for Russian scientists – first publication was made only in 2018 and till present time only few specialists are aware of finding. RiverGo experts found aggregation of rare mollusks during their own studies in 2019 on the territory of nature reserve “Gryada Vyaryamyanselkya”. For the reserve’s management and other regional environmental authorities, the existence of this population in the river was unknown. There are only a few rivers in the Russian part of Baltic Sea catchment where freshwater pearl mussels exist and the population in the river Volchja can be the largest.

The main part of mussel’s population is located in the river downstream old dam of former small hydropower plant. Nowadays the dam is impassable obstacle for migration of aquatic fauna, especially for brown trout – host of pearl mussel larvae. Thus, removal of the dam or building fish passage, as well creation of additional spawning grounds, will support existence of rare mollusk in the river. Conservation of mussels can be a reason that foster works in the river. Baltic fund for nature will continue cooperation with authorities, scientists and stakeholders in implementation of studies and conservation measures at the river Volchja.

The Russian portion of the river system also needs attention, but the scale of work required is beyond the scope of RiverGo. A preliminary study of potential areas for future restoration has been made, for discussion with the Russian authorities.

Baltic Stewardship Initiative – new ways to engage key regional agri-food actors

Contact: Kristina Atkisson and My Andersson

In 2020 WWF Sweden launched Baltic Stewardship Initiative (BSI) – a collaborative platform for companies and organizations in the agri-food sector who want to stop the ongoing eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. The initiative is in partnership with the Swedish Federation of Farmers and the food company Lantmännen. So far, it includes around 25 companies and organizations representing different parts of the Swedish agro-food sector.

BSI is based on the premise that sustainability must be profitable for change to happen at the necessary scale and pace.  The Initiative is therefore looking for ways that food companies, retailers and consumers can reward farmers who apply measures that reduce nutrient run-off. This includes, for example, establishing or restoring wetlands, growing catch crops (a fast-growing crop that is grown between successive plantings of a main crop), establishing nutrient balances, and applying precision cultivation methods.

Recently, the Initiative began to develop a tool that food companies will be able to use to achieve this. The tool is targeted for launch in spring of 2022. As many food companies have similar tools in place that address other sustainability measures, such as climate and biodiversity, the BSI tool is intended for integration into the existing toolset. In any case, many of the measures that help reduce nutrient run-off also have other sustainability benefits, if properly designed.

BSI starts in Sweden with the ambition to engage key actors across the entire Baltic Sea region.

The Baltic Stewardship Initiative is run by WWF Sweden in cooperation with the Swedish Federation of Farmers and the food company Lantmännen. The Swedish part of the initiative is funded by the Swedish Board of Agriculture until 2022.



WWF Denmark and Copenhagen harbour break the world record for biohuts

Contact: Thomas Kirk Sørensen

In June, WWF Denmark installed 50 biohuts in Copenhagen harbour in a partnership with Copenhagen’s By & Havn, making it Europe’s number one harbour for biohut installations. Another 20 units were installed in September on Stromma properties. WWF Denmark and partners are aiming for a total of 100 biohuts, which would make Copenhagen port the world leader on biohut numbers.

What is a biohut?
Biohuts are cages filled with mussel shells: artificial habitats which offer food and shelter to juvenile fish that naturally enter harbours and other marine facilities.

Such initiatives are a meaningful way to enhance biodiversity in ports, where natural structures and habitats are often replaced with uniform surfaces with less complexity and thus less potential for the rich web of nature that supports ecosystem health to take hold.

More information here.

Germany’s first state-funded ghost gear retrieval project

Contact: Andrea Stolte and Gabriele Dederer (German Baltic Sea Office, Stralsund)

In September 2019, WWF Germany invited the environmental ministries of the three German coastal states and the federal environmental agency to meet on Rügen Island to discuss removing lost fishing gear (also known as “ghost” gear) from the Baltic Sea. This high-level meeting bore fruit: in March this year, the first state-funded ghost gear pilot project started in Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania. 

Under this project, the state is financing the retrieval of lost fishing gear by professional divers and fishing vessels. Fisherfolk are reimbursed for their effort to collect lost gear in retrieval campaigns coordinated by the German WWF Baltic Sea Office in Stralsund. The project covers the full process from the search for lost gear right through to the disposal of the gear retrieved.

Already since 2019, the German Baltic Sea ghost gear team carried out a total of about 40 sonar search days at sea with support from the federal German Environmental Agency and the Postcode Lotterie. In 2019 alone, more than 3500 hectares of the Baltic seafloor were assessed, from which 16 tonnes of plastic and metal waste were removed to allow the re-establishment of the sandy seafloor. This extraordinary data set in both coastal states, MV and Schleswig-Holstein, forms the basis of ongoing ghost gear retrievals.

Now at the end of 2021, WWF Germany has retrieved a total of 26 tonnes of lost fishing gear from the German Baltic Sea. This success is based on the efficient sonar search technology employed since 2018, a technology which continues to be tested and refined in the North Sea under extremely varied weather conditions.

Gabriele Dederer, scientific diver and co-project manager, will soon go on an excursion in the Mediterranean for a sonar training workshop to share learnings from this project with WWF France and Italy and in two years time, the summary report of this work will serve as the basis for the German state to work towards regular retrieval activities in the German waters of the Baltic Sea.

Exciting times for a cleaner Baltic Sea & beyond!

Testing modified seal-friendly nets in the Gulf of Finland

Contact: Marina Vilner

Fishers and seals have been in conflict in the Gulf of Finland for decades, with no effective solution found to date. The two main types of fishing gear used in Russian waters are gill nets and fyke nets. Gill nets are more common, particularly for smelt, the main commercial fish species in the region. Gill nets are set at depths below 20 meters. Fyke nets, by contrast, are mainly for shallow waters and are not suitable for deep water fisheries.

Underwater video of fishes passing the fence on fyke net. Video credit: Alexei Kouprianov

Gill nets are easy to handle and inexpensive, so are a preferred gear for the fishers. However, they are dangerous to marine life: fish caught by their gills can get damaged, and seal pups and diving birds get entangled in the netting and die. Lost or moved by the storms, such gear turns into ghost nets, polluting the marine environment and endangering aquatic organisms, fisheries and navigation. Moreover, seals can easily eat up to 70% of the catch from gill nets, which aggravates the existing conflict between them and the fishers. The catch in such nets is difficult to protect from hungry seals looking for an easy snack.

A shift from gill nets to fyke nets would be a win both for the conservation of marine mammals and the mitigation of seal – fisheries conflict.

Fyke nets (trap net) are bag-shaped nets which are held open by hoops. A fyke net can be a threat to marine mammals, who might suffocate if they get inside in pursuit of prey. However, a small modification such as a metal mesh or fence installed at the trap’s entrance makes the fyke net completely safe for seals and effectively protects the catch. This year the Baltic Fund for Nature tested such a modified trap.

The trials were carried out in the Dalnyaya Bay of the Gulf of Vyborg, in the north-eastern part of the Gulf of Finland. Fyke nets were equipped with two types of entrance fences, with 130mm and 200mm mesh. Cameras set up at each gate recorded how the fish were entering the gear, through the fence.  Target fish species and fishes close to the size of the mesh passed through the gate freely and the fence did not reduce gear effectiveness. Although the fence makes it somewhat more difficult to retrieve the catch and may silt up during storms, we nonetheless recommend it as a simple modification to make fyke nets more seal- (and thus fisher-) friendly. 

Through interviews with fishermen in the region, we have established that they are willing to try the modification. The Baltic Fund for Nature is now negotiating with the Russian State Fisheries Agency to mandate the installation of fences on fyke nets through the Fishery Regulations in the parts in the Gulf where the seals occur in high numbers.

Mo’ fish, fewer problems…

Contact: Elza Ozolina

As part of a sustainable fisheries project launched in early 2019 and funded by the Swedish Postcode Foundation, Pasaules Dabas Fonds has developed the initiative “Lai jūra čum un mudž” loosely translated to, “Let there be a Baltic Sea”. This initiative brings together businesses, chefs, associations and other stakeholders who are keen to promote sustainable seafood consumption and implement the WWF Baltic Seafood Guide as part of their day-to-day operations.


Photo credit: Pasaules Dabas Fonds

“Lai jūra čum un mudž” has had a high profile over the past three years, thanks to extensive communications and media coverage and playful visuals. To encourage consumers to combine trying out new recipes with more environmentally friendly shopping and dining, Pasaules Dabas Fonds has created its first video recipe series with some of the best chefs in Latvia. The main idea behind the series is to highlight species that are listed as environmentally friendly for consumption and as a platform for the initiative’s partners to share their story and their reasons for leading the catering industry towards sustainable fish and seafood consumption. Take a look and enjoy your meal!

Together for the Ocean

Contact: Halszka Gronek

In June 2021, WWF renewed the global partnership with Rio Mare (a brand of the Bolton Group), one of the world’s largest producers of canned tuna. This led to the launch of a campaign in Poland on 30 September, with WWF and Rio Mare jointly focusing on consumer-facing activities under the banner “Together for the ocean”. Together we raise awareness of how important sustainable fishing and responsible consumer choices are for a healthy ocean.

The ocean and seas are responsible for every second breath we take. A threat to the planet’s blue lungs is therefore a threat to all of us. Unsustainable fishing is one of the greatest pressures we humans put on our water bodies.

More than 90% of wild fish stocks are overfished or fished to their maximum potential. Harmful fishing practices damage the seabed and cause bycatch of endangered species. We threaten the survival of the ocean and marine life. This must change.

Real change, however, is not possible without collaboration with business. Market transformation is a chance to stop or even reverse negative changes in marine ecosystems. It is also an opportunity for business, for the companies who understand that their future depends on the good condition of the natural environment.

Ambitious goals

Bolton Food and WWF are focused on building the sustainability of Rio Mare’s supply chains by sourcing from more sustainable fisheries and advocating for the responsible management of tuna stocks globally. The company has set an ambitious target: by the end of 2024, 100% of the tuna used by Rio Mare will be sourced in a way that is consistent with WWF’s tuna strategy. In practice this means that it will come from MSC-certified fisheries or from credible and comprehensive fisheries improvement projects (FIPs).

Real impact

The collaboration between WWF and Rio Mare has been ongoing since 2016. For WWF it is a way to achieve strategic goals around addressing unsustainable fishing. For Rio Mare, the partnership is a chance to prove that business can be run in harmony with nature.

Today, nearly 70% of Rio Mare’s tuna comes from MSC-certified sustainable fisheries or from FIPs, and all of their tuna products are fully traceable from the catch to plate. 

An official media conference marked the launch of the campaign and the ambitious goals were presented. This event also marked the opening of the promotional campaign. Specially designed city lights appeared in public spaces in Warsaw and Upper Silesia, and the packaging of select Rio Mare products provided information about the partnership. Our collaboration with Rio Mare is proof of what can be achieved by combining the strengths of a business and an NGO.

Click here for more information.

Study of St Petersburg’s seafood market

Contact: Tatiana Ivanova

This year the Baltic Fund For Nature made a preliminary assessment of the seafood market in St. Petersburg to understand the types of product information customers are receiving. We studied randomized products from popular shops and online food markets. The main parameter was the availability of labels or relevant information about certification of sustainable fishing. We also looked at information about source of origin, catch location, and the scientific name of the species.


Seafood product in St. Petersburg. Photo credit: A. Yurtseva

Our study showed that only 0.6% of the seafood products studied have a sustainable fishery certification label. In all cases this was from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Some products have eco-friendly labels, but they do not show that aquatic organisms were fished or grown (in the case of aquaculture) sustainably. Information about the location of the (wild) catch or aquaculture farms was available for all of the unprocessed seafood but for only 2.7% of wild-caught and 6.1% of aquaculture processed products. According to Eurasian Economic Union legislation, this information must indeed only be provided for unprocessed seafood goods.

Nine times out of ten, St. Petersburg customers can be sure of the exact species they are buying. The remaining 10% of products analyzed have just the name of the genus or the common species name.

Considering the low levels of sustainable fishery certification, customers need to put in the effort to find out if their seafood meets sustainability criteria in order to inform their purchase. There is a trend among Russian customers toward choosing safe and environmentally-friendly food. This needs to be supported by easy access to accurate product information. Perhaps as the habit of choosing seafood from sustainable sources takes hold, it will incentivize companies to certify their catches and to shift inexorably toward more sustainable practices.


Sustainable Finance

How can financial flows in the seascape help support and restore the Baltic Sea?

Contact: Valerie de Liedekerke

During the 20 October HELCOM Ministerial Meeting to adopt the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP), WWF and Coalition Clean Baltic convened high-level ministers, finance representatives, and non-governmental organizations to discuss how financial flows in the seascape can help support and restore the Baltic Sea.

A panel shared how a healthy ocean provides blue natural capital upon which our economy, our societies, and our future are dependent. Investors have a significant role to play.


  • Andreea Strachinescu, Head of Unit responsible for Maritime Innovation, Marine Knowledge and Investment, Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
  • Dr. Dennis Fritsch, Sustainable Blue Economy Initiative Lead, UNEP FI
  • Christopher Flensborg, Head of Climate and Sustainable Finance Business Development, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB (SEB)
  • Valerie de Liedekerke, Manager & Interim Director, WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme (BEP)

The Baltic is currently some distance from being a Sustainable Blue Economy (SBE) – one that ensures that nature thrives and renewable resources are available in perpetuity. However, with increased political commitment, well-targeted and sustainable finance could accelerate the region’s transition to a SBE through capital flows into companies and sectors that have overall positive environmental and social impacts on and around the Baltic Sea.

The panelists also touched on the role of banks and other financial institutions in supporting the transition to a Sustainable Blue Economy, the various tools and standards available to help, and what governments could do to better support and enable a Sustainable Blue Economy.

Watch this event here

Is the Baltic on track to a Sustainable Blue Economy?

The WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme will be launching a Baltic Seascape Assessment of the Financial Flows in 2022. The report maps the financial flows into the Baltic maritime sectors and assesses whether these support or hinder the delivery of a Sustainable Blue Economy. The report will aim to encourage financial institutions and other key stakeholders to pursue a more resilient investment strategy and influence industry sectors to proactively engage in restoring, protecting, and sustainably managing the ocean’s natural capital towards delivering a sustainable development trajectory for the Baltic Sea.


Report launch: Navigating ocean risk – Value at Risk in the Global Blue Economy

The ocean makes life on Earth possible. Among its benefits, two-thirds of our investments around the world depend on a healthy ocean. In October, WWF joined in convening financial experts to showcase a path forward for investors that could save over US$5 trillion through a transition to a more sustainable blue economic model.

During the event, results shared from the new report revealed that investors in 66% of listed companies are collectively at risk of losing US$8.4 trillion due to declining ocean health and climate change if business as usual continues. Even keeping global temperature rise to 2°C will result in losses of US$3.3 trillion, which highlights the importance of keeping global temperature rise to the Paris Agreement target of below 1.5oC.

Published by and WWF and Metabolic, the report concludes that the financial sector needs to better assess ocean risks in their portfolios and must pivot from investments that damage the ocean environment to sustainable business models.

Click here for more information.

Green transformation of Denmark’s Blue Economy Webinar series

Contact: Ditte Degnbol

In May and June, WWF Denmark ran a webinar series to kick off the VELUX-funded project Green Conversion of Denmark’s Blue Economy. In the opening session, we presented WWF’s principles for a Sustainable Blue Economy and Daniel Vermeer, Director of the EDGE Center at Duke University, demonstrated the economic importance of healthy oceans, presenting different pathways to a sustainable ocean economy.

Since the Danish Marine Spatial Plan was in a process of public consultation, the second webinar addressed the question of how we take account of ecosystems in marine spatial planning and what healthy marine ecosystems are worth. The third webinar focused on the business perspective. It featured CSR-director and author Steffen Max Høgh, who explained why green transition is worthwhile for businesses and shared some key best practices. CEO Anders Barsøe from the sushi chain Letz Sushi and Kristian Lundgaard-Karlshøj, co-owner of the farm Ausumgaard and winner of the prize Farmer of the Year 2019, shared experiences from their innovative green transitions.

Green Conversion of Denmark’s Blue Economy is working to shift the Danish agenda from focusing on “blue growth” towards building a sustainable blue economy.


Update from Brussels

Run4Nature: Let’s make Europe’s nature fit again!

Contact: Bartosz Brzezinski


Copyright: WWF European Policy Office

We are only as healthy as the nature around us. But Europe’s ecosystems are in rapid decline and climate change is only making things worse. To bend the curve of nature loss, protecting remaining natural places will not be sufficient – we need to invest in large-scale restoration as well.

In early 2022, the European Commission is expected to propose legally binding EU nature restoration targets to restore biodiversity and degraded ecosystems, in particular those with the most potential to capture and store carbon and to prevent and reduce the impact of natural disasters.

This so-called ‘EU restoration law’ is an opportunity we cannot afford to squander. Well designed, the law could become a real game-changer. It could be a win-win solution to tackle the biodiversity and climate crises as, for the first time, Member States will be legally obligated to restore such critical ecosystems as primary forests, wetlands, sea areas and many more.


Copyright: WWF European Policy Office

The law must immediately translate into restoration efforts on the grounds – there is no time to waste. That’s why the WWF European Policy Office has been advocating for the law to contain concrete and measurable targets by 2030.

To highlight the importance of nature restoration to human health, WWF co-organized a stunt in Brussels, during which 27 runners representing the EU Member States ran a symbolic relay race around the European Commission headquarters.

The runners – many of them children and youth – handed over a symbol of nature restoration to EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius and urged him to present a law that is credible, ambitious and targeted in order to make a real difference and bring back Europe’s nature for the benefit of the planet and the people.

Ester Asin, Director of the WWF European Policy Office, stressed to the Commissioner that the law must be based on scientific evidence rather than political compromise.

“The health of our planet and our own health and wellbeing are inextricably linked, and unless we ‘make nature fit again’ by restoring it on a large scale, we risk creating a fragile environment open to infectious diseases, while decreasing our resilience to the extreme weather events brought on by climate change,” she said.

The publication of the law in December will be just the first step. In the spring, the proposal will be debated on by the Member States and the European Parliament, before being adopted as a law which must be implemented in all 27 countries. 

Read the original story.


Meet the team – Dr. Finn Viehberg


New BEP team member Finn Viehberg from WWF Germany

What is your job title?

Head of WWF Office Baltic Sea for WWF Germany

What did you study?

I studied biology at the University Greifswald, in Germany next to the Baltic Sea. My first student job was a practical work experience at the WWF-Office Baltic Sea in Stralsund, where I met Jochen Lamp for the first time. Carried away by academia in aquatic ecology and ecological conditions in the recent Earth history (Quaternary), I finished my doctorate in palaeontology and returned to the Baltic after studies abroad in Canada and a few universities in Germany. My key take home messages are that a) an ecosystem has its own historical memory, which will set its future framework, and b) the aspect of time and timing is underestimated in ecosystem conservation and restoration.

What most inspires you about your work?

The WWF Baltic office in Stralsund has a long success story and is a driving and active part in many national and international initiatives to restore coastal ecosystems, find/remove lost fishing gear and add to meaningful maritime spatial planning in the Baltic Sea. We have accumulated sound expertise and experience necessary to comment on the HELCOM-Baltic Sea Action Plan critically and productively. Maintaining this professional level in the years to come will be essential to add more valuable contributions to protect the Baltic. It is inspiring and motivating to be part of this team and to be part of the WWF Baltic Programme.

What do your kids think you do?

My two kids think that I work with more pandas to make the Baltic Sea healthier again and I am their guarantee that it will happen. I admit that is spot on.

How do you see the situation in the Baltic in 50 years?

The situation in the Baltic in 2075 will be still complex and different. HELCOM will have celebrated its 100th anniversary and still push its Baltic Action Plan, which will be loaded with new topics that are the result of the ongoing man-made climate crisis. The coastal protection measures to prevent land and asset losses due to sea level rise will be a major topic. Global heating will add to the vulnerability of the Baltic ecosystem. We will not only experience more neozoens from the tropics/Mediterranean, but also oxygen depleted areas will spatially expand further and to shallower depths, too. Luckily, our continuous campaign efforts in the 2020s and ‘30s will have been fruitful, so we will have a stronger and more ambitious action plan implemented and reach net zero in 50 years. A sustainable blue economy will be standard for the Baltic. Equally successful will be our continuous team efforts to partner with Baltic farmers and fishers. Nutrient run-off levels will be reduced significantly and ecosystem-based fisheries will be self explanatory in five decades. 

However, we need to remember that the retention time of water in the Baltic Sea is about 40 to 50 years, so it is time to act now to see positive changes in 50 years from now.

Contact: Finn Viehberg

– Partner: WWF Germany
– Country: Germany
– Active in the Baltic since 1991
– Main thematic focus: Ecosystem restoration, eutrophication and agriculture, sustainable fisheries, educational programmes


On the horizon

Ocean Action is Climate Action – and the Time for Action is Now!

Contact: Pauli Merriman

The importance of addressing the interlinked ocean and climate crisis is critical, particularly in places such as the Baltic Sea region where climate change impacts are already increasing pressures. This is why the outcomes of the UN’s Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP26) that took place in Glasgow last month are so important. And it is why the final decision text represents an important step forward in recognizing the role of nature – and the ocean specifically – in addressing the climate crisis. The science is clear: There is no viable route to limiting global warming to 1.5°C without nature.

Protecting, conserving, and restoring ocean ecosystems – such as the seagrass meadows and salt marshes found in the Baltic Sea – supports the delivery of crucial services such as carbon sequestration, reducing vulnerability to storms, and flooding, and sustainable livelihoods. Importantly, the text also calls for an annual dialogue to strengthen ocean-based mitigation and adaptation action, and to integrate ocean-based action in existing mandates and work plans of the UNFCCC. These are a recognition of the effects of climate change on the ocean and the role ocean-based solutions can play in addressing the climate crisis.

The rising tide of support for integrating ocean action into the UNFCCC and in the official outcome of COP26 can be credited to a broad coalition of ocean champions representing the public and private sectors, non-profit, scientific, youth and civil society groups. WWF is proud to be part of this movement to carry the message that a healthy and resilient ocean is critical to achieving the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement. Just as the ocean is essential to a functioning climate, so it must be to the workings of the UNFCCC.

WWF is pleased that an annual ocean-climate dialogue will now be a fundamental component of future COPs. The hard work to turn talk into action lies ahead.The role of regional governance and action should be an important component of this annual dialogue and we look forward to exploring how the Baltic region can contribute.

Learn more about this work here.


Editorial support: Sian Owen (Sustainability Options Consulting)

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Last modified 13/12/21

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