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Newsletter|16 May, 2022

WWF Baltic Newsletter | May 2022

WWF Baltic Newlsetter _ May 2022

In this edition of the newsletter:


Editorial: Together possible

Contact: Hannah Griffiths Berggren and Valerie de Liedekerke

We are living in troubled times. WWF condemns the aggression, violence, and destruction in Ukraine. Our hearts and thoughts are with everyone affected by this armed conflict, especially the people of Ukraine who are suffering, and all those in the wider impacted region.

As the humanitarian crisis in eastern Europe deepens, a correlated environmental crisis looms larger every day. The full implications of the conflict for nature and our conservation work are unknown. Certainly, transport and energy markets have been impacted, with shifting markets for fossil fuels on the rise. This is in contrast to the April 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which underscores the need to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy and drastically slash emissions if we are to reduce the scale and pace of climate impacts and give adaptation efforts a chance.

Peace is the foundation of a future in which people and nature thrive in harmony. We at WWF’s Baltic Ecoregion Programme (BEP) stand together with our colleagues and all those affected in the conflict zone, along with everyone around the world who are calling for a swift and peaceful resolution to the war on the Baltic’s doorstep.

Peace is the foundation of a future in which people and nature thrive in harmony.

With partners from every country around our shared sea, the BEP continues our joint work in a spirit of cooperation, to advance our goals both on the ground and in policy arenas across the region. In collaboration with local communities and key stakeholders (fishers, farmers, local companies and markets, and other conservation groups), we continue to seek outcomes that improve human and environmental wellbeing for all. In practice, this includes guiding consumer behavior towards more sustainable choices; improving the management of our shared marine resources; scaling-up methods for cleaning our sea; and restoring river and wetland ecosystems. You can read about all of this and more in the articles below.

During tumultuous times, non-governmental organizations have an important role in connecting the dots across these complex topics, maintaining a focus on the priorities and ensuring the necessary outcomes. Equally, businesses, communities and individuals each have their role to play. If we work together, we can take on anything.

We hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter. If you are interested please click here to learn more about how to support Ukraine.

Best wishes from the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme secretariat, Hannah Griffiths Berggren, Communications Manager (left), Johanna Fox, Programme Director (centre), and Valerie de Liedekerke, Programme Manager (right).

One-on-one with Anda Ruskule

Contact Anda Ruskule

Anda Ruskule, Baltic Environmental Forum Latvia

In this edition, we interview Anda Ruskule, who leads the nature conservation and maritime spatial planning (MSP) work at the Baltic Environmental Forum Latvia. She tells us about her work on Latvia’s current ecosystem-based maritime spatial plan and the role of EU member states in harmonizing marine governance across the Baltic Sea.

What are some of the key challenges for MSP in the Baltic?

From the planner’s perspective scarcity of data is a key issue. In the Baltic, we are in a good position compared to other regions largely due to HELCOM activities putting together marine data, however, the collection of marine data is expensive. In Latvia, we have limited budgets for marine field surveys and therefore we have a coverage of data which is patchy. From a regional perspective, a big challenge for MSP is the different planning systems in each country. Not only are some more rigid and others flexible but the process has been taking place in different countries and times, making them difficult to match. Germany, Lithuania, and Latvia have been frontrunners and other countries have now gained more experience from our successes and mistakes but in general the process has been very uneven. All of this means that planning is not harmonized.

What makes Latvia’s ecosystem-based MSP so successful?

It was thanks to the environmentalists really! In the beginning, it was a question about under which ministry maritime spatial planning would go. It finally landed in the hands of the ministry of environmental protection and regional development where there is natural interest in environmental issues. The ecosystem based approach was integrated into the terms of reference for the first draft of the maritime spatial plan, an approach that the Baltic Environmental Forum already had experience using. We won the tender for the MSP but we were absolutely not doing it by ourselves, it was a work of collaboration. All the best available experts possible in our country for doing this job were working together. The capacity and competencies of the team and interest in environmental issues paved the way for success.

How did Latvia go about creating an ecosystem-based approach to MSP?

An ecosystem-based approach was required so we built our methodology around this. We also took the concept of ecosystem services and mapped how ecological services contribute to social and economic benefits, we also looked at how policymaking and planning impact the ecosystem function and structure. We took this principle as the basis for building in the blocks of different stages of MSP and how we work with an ecosystem-based approach using an ecosystem service cascade model as our basis. We have a limited budget and short time span for the first draft which was led by the Baltic Environmental Forum, then the finalisation of the plan was in the hands of the ministry where it was compressed into something that eventually would get accepted by the government. This compression led to some solutions being removed and focused just on the main issues.

What do you believe needs to happen to ensure that the EU and Baltic member states successfully protect at least 30% of marine and coastal areas by 2030?

From a nature conservation and biological perspective, it is a challenge of data scarcity and scarcity of financial resources for collecting data about which areas are most essential for protection. In the BalticScope project, we had a joint exercise of mapping green infrastructure at the Baltic Sea scale – we were compiling together the data using the HELCOM mapping data services (which is still not really sufficient in terms of ecological features) but it is the best we have available. Based on this we could calculate areas with the highest ecological value and highest potential in ecosystem service supply. We created a gradient scale and could calculate which areas out of these are the 30% of the most valuable. We have a vision of a coherent network of marine protected areas in the Baltic. This kind of cooperation among countries in compiling the best available data and identifying the areas not only from a national perspective but from a sea basin perspective is essential.

How does Latvia ensure that the marine protected areas in maritime spatial plans are effectively protected?

Our legislation defines what should not be done in marine protected areas. The biggest advantage of having managed to establish MPAs is that it makes activities that could destroy benthic habitats of harm nature values are forbidden. All existing limitations defined by nature conservation legislation for the use of marine areas is taken directly into MSP. The main challenge for the protection of MPAs is not related to regulation in marine areas but really eutrophication which is caused by agricultural pollution. Something that we do not work enough on in Lativa. Our regulations for the use of the sea are not enough when problems steam from the land.

What new developments are you seeing in the Baltic Sea, and how might that impact ecosystem-based MSP in the region?

First, there are changes in how we are working together, even if we in the Baltic have already had quite a strong history of collaboration through HELCOM. Through various projects we are moving towards a common data platform that could use used to come up with joint solutions and look at cumulative impacts from a regional perspective. This will help us to harmonize MSP in the region and can only be done by working together. Secondly, there are geopolitical changes in the region, for example a resurging interest in the energy sector. Offshore wind parks were always an issue in MSP but right now in Lativa, there is new legislation in the process of giving up environmental impact assessments for marine park development by reclassifying them as an issue of national interest. While this may be necessary we have to balance this with environmental interests to look for strategic areas for new marine parks.

What are the next steps for MSP in Latvia and the region?

We have learned from our successes and mistakes when we were doing the Latvian MSP and could identify information gaps. Now, we will try to integrate any new knowledge and harmonize the planning solutions between countries to ensure better co-operation and a more coherent planning system based on new technologies and emerging tools. Using models we can now upload the latest data to accurately measure the impacts of, for example, adding a new wind park to an area of the sea.

Want to learn more about how well Latvia scored in their ecosystem-based MSP? Read about WWF’s latest report ‘Assessing the Balance Between Nature and People in the European Seas: Maritime Spatial Planning in the Baltic’ and our story covering this report in Seascape section.

About Anda Ruskule
Anda has PhD in geography, with a focus on landscape ecology. Anda works for the Baltic Environmental Forum – Latvia as an environmental expert and project manager, drawing on years of experience in MSP, ecosystem service mapping, and nature conservation issues. She has been involved in several international projects, promoting an ecosystem approach to land use and MSP, as well as participating in the development of the Latvian national MSP.

WATER IN THE LANDSCAPE

Dam Busters

Author Daina Šteinberga

As part of World Fish Migration Day on 21 May, Pasaules Dabas Fonds will premiere the brand new film “Dam Busters” produced by WWF, Dam Removal Europe, and World Fish Migration Foundation

Bejas dam will be the first dam removed for river restoration in Latvia this summer. Photo by M. Jentgena.

Following the journey around the world of Pao Fernández Garrido, a Spanish engineer, the film sets out to meet the “river heroes” – people on all continents in a passionate quest to restore rivers and ecosystems.

As one of the first countries to have carried out major dam removals since 1996, France will be in the spotlight with the removal of the major dams on the Sélune and the partial removal of the Poutès dam on the Haut Allier.

The premiere will take place on 24 May at the Splendid Palace Cinema, one of Europe’s oldest movie theatres, located in Riga. It will offer an opportunity for politicians and NGO representatives to network and discuss policy changes needed to restore and protect migrating fish populations.

“River flows, Life Goes” delivers important results

Author Tatiana Ivanova

The Finnish-Russian project RiverGo (River Flows – Life Goes) was completed in early 2022. Over its three-year lifespan, the project achieved numerous results in its study of the Vuoksi River ecosystem and dissemination of knowledge about natural values. This story describes the main achievements in the state of the river’s salmonid fish and crayfish populations and recommends conservation actions.

The ‘River Flow – Life Goes’ a joint study of river crayfish species. Photo by E. Erkamo.

The project experts found, for example, that the invasive American signal crayfish has spread downstream from Finland to Russia. Two large Russian hydropower stations in the river slowed the distribution but within in few decades it could potentially reach the river’s lower stream and enter Ladoga Lake. If so, the consequences for Europe’s largest lake ecosystem could be catastrophic: American signal crayfish not only replace native crayfish species due to crayfish plague infection but can also cause serious change in the bottom-dwelling communities of water bodies.

The ‘River Flow – Life Goes’ a joint study of the restoration of the Vuoski river. Photo by P. Haimi.

On the basis of ichthyological and hydrological research, the RiverGo experts calculated that the River Vuoksi has lost around 200 ha of spawning areas (roughly the same size as the Principality of Monaco) due to hydropower construction since the 1920s. Together with industrial water pollution, aquatic fauna migration disruption, and fragmentation of river habitats, hydropower infrastructure has caused a significant loss of fish stocks. Populations of salmonid fish species in the Vuoksi can be supported by the restoration of spawning areas, construction of nature-like fish passages, and control of illegal fishing.  Such action is even more important in the context of the deepening negative impacts of climate change. 

The publication of joint reports and cross-border cooperation are currently suspended. However, the results of the RiverGo project were presented and discussed with stakeholders in both Finland and Russia in March 2022. We hope that project results fostered by partners on both sides of the border will influence national decision-makers to undertake conservation actions to save the Vuoksi River ecosystem. Meanwhile, the river flows and life goes.

In search of a new tool to reduce run-off

Author Mats Johansson

The Baltic Stewardship Initiative (BSI) project is a collaborative platform for companies and organizations in the agri-food sector who want to stop ongoing eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. The project has been up and running since September 2020. Today it comprises around 25 companies and organizations representing different parts of the Swedish agri-food sector.

Inspiring webinar series around eutrophication

Webinar series centered on eutrophication presented by the Baltic Stewardship Initiative.

During the autumn of 2021 and spring of 2022, BSI joined forces with The Federation of Swedish Farmers (LRF) and Greppa Näringen, (a joint venture between the Swedish Board of Agriculture, the County Administration Boards, LRF and several farming companies) to provide a webinar series on a range of subjects related to eutrophication. Three well-attended webinars which were held in Swedish included participants from Sweden and neighboring countries. They covered the following themes: 

  • Combined ponds for irrigation and reduction of nutrients;
  • Rising prices for nitrogen fertilizers increase the value of manure; 
  • Carbon farming, cash crops, and intermediate crops – how can they contribute to reduced eutrophication? 

We hope to return with a new series of webinars later this year, with the aim that one will be in English.

Mats Johansson, project manager, WWF Baltic Stewardship Initiative

BSI is based on the premise that sustainability must be profitable for change to happen at the necessary scale and pace. We are currently focused on developing a tool that will help food companies, retailers and consumers reward farmers who reduce nutrient run-off. We are looking forward to wrapping up the project with the launch of the new tool in autumn 2022.

BSI gets new leadership

Our new project manager, Mats Johansson, has been running BSI since April. Mats has worked as a consultant for over 20 years, focused on questions related to water and eutrophication, initiating and running development collaborative projects involving public and private actors. We are happy to have Mats onboard! “The ambition has always been to engage key actors across the entire Baltic Sea region in BSI. We are eager to share our experiences and learnings from our project, so do not hesitate to contact us if you want to know more or have any questions,” Mats Johansson, Project Manager of the WWF Baltic Stewardship Initiative.

Seascape

Baltic countries lead on sustainable sea management but is it enough for nature?

Author Valerie de Liedekerke

WWF’s Baltic Ecoregion Programme has evaluated Baltic EU Member States’ maritime spatial planning (MSP) strategies for sustainably managing marine areas and resources and concluded that while they lead the EU for sustainable sea space management, they are still putting nature at risk.

The Baltic is the first EU sea basin to establish regional structures (the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) and the Vision and Strategies Around the Baltic (VASAB)) which support the implementation of the EU MSP Directive at member state level and establish an action plan for achieving good environmental status of the sea by 2030 at the latest, as required by EU law. Overall, however, MSP in the Baltic region has only been partly successful. WWF’s assessment reveals that the integration of an ecosystem-based approach – which maintains ecosystems in a healthy, productive and resilient condition against human pressures – is uneven across member states.

WWF Report finds the integration of an ecosystem-based approach into maritime spatial planning is uneven across the region.

An ecosystem-based approach to MSP can truly transform how sea spaces are assessed and managed. To secure a sustainable blue economy, it is necessary to define the carrying capacity of our sea areas, and to conduct robust environmental assessments using up-to-date data in order to reduce current environmental degradation. The report shows there is a long way to go before ecosystem-based approaches are fully integrated into the region’s marine management.

The total combined areas that Baltic Member States have designated for marine protection miss the EU Biodiversity Strategy target of protecting at least 30% of marine and coastal areas, of which 10% should be strictly protected (meaning human access and impacts are strictly controlled and limited). Moreover, not one member state plan sets aside space for nature restoration activities and only two countries have partially addressed temporal and spatial uncertainties in the era of climate change.

An ecosystem-based approach to MSP can truly transform how sea spaces are assessed and managed.

Where national plans have designated space for offshore renewable energy, which is necessary for achieving climate neutrality by 2040 as per the European Green Deal, the majority of countries have failed to consider the impacts of offshore renewable energy infrastructure on ecosystems and wildlife.

“While the Baltic states have taken the regional lead in Europe for submitting plans to sustainably manage their sea, significant gaps in these plans show how crucial it is for all member states to work across sectors and align with EU policies, such as the Common Fisheries Policy and Marine Strategy Framework Directive that seek a sustainable and secure future for all,” says Dr. Antonia Leroy, Head of Ocean Policy at WWF European Policy Office. “A sustainable blue economy in the EU depends on harmony across borders, space for nature, and legally-binding maritime spatial plans.”

WWF is calling on all Baltic Sea countries to ensure their maritime spatial plans secure sufficient space for nature to recover and thrive. This includes leaving offshore renewable energy development out of marine protected areas and establishing transboundary cooperation between member states to reduce harmful impacts to nature from this type of infrastructure. All stakeholders must be involved and consulted in all phases of MSP, with national plans covering all sea areas and continuously adapted as new data comes available and new pieces of legislation come into force.

Download the report

Breaking news about Danish Maritime Spatial Planning
Author Thomas Kirk Sørensen

In March 2021, Denmark submitted and published its first maritime spatial plan (MSP), which entered immediately into six months of public consultations. The plan has been widely criticized due to its shortcomings around the use of an ecosystem-based approach.

Key weaknesses include an inadequate cumulative impacts assessment, insufficient marine protected areas, and a lack of inclusion of ecosystem services. The plan included 4.1% strictly protected areas (EU Biodiversity Strategy) and a claim to have protected 30% of the Danish Sea. Critics, however, claim that the 4.1% is insufficient and inappropriately sited, and that the 30% mainly consists of protection for birds and marine mammals but not for the highly disturbed Danish seafloor.

Based on this criticism it was agreed in December 2021 that the spatial plan would be opened for broad negotiations among all parties in Parliament for the first time. A substantial aim for many involved is to strictly protect a minimum 10% of the Danish Sea and to ensure that all of the 30% marine protected areas actually protect seafloor biodiversity. Additionally, the December agreement included establishing a large trawl-free area in the Danish Belt Sea to aid the ailing cod population. This marks a change in the approach to management, with a joint focus on the fish species and on the recovery of the habitats necessary to the health of the cod population.

In late April of this year, the minority government stated that the previous MSP would be discarded and a new one developed. In the new plan, the amount of sea area allocated for renewable energy would be doubled to 30%, both to meet renewable energy targets and to achieve independence from Russian gas.

WWF Denmark is closely involved in the negotiations which began in late April and are ongoing.

Cod on the line

Author Halszka Gronek

The Eastern Baltic cod population used to be one of the largest cod populations in the Atlantic. Today, decades of overexploitation paired with eutrophication and habitat degradation have led to a dramatic decline in both the Eastern and Western populations. But it is not too late for the species to recover. If decisive action is taken to protect the fish and the ecosystem around them, it may thrive again. These are the conclusions from an analysis, The Decline of Cod in the Baltic Sea published in March. The analysis is part of the international ‘Return of the Cod’ project run by The Fisheries Secretariat of which four WWF BEP offices – Estonian Fund for Nature, Lithuanian Fund for Nature, Pasaules Dabas Fonds, and WWF Poland –  are participating. The project aims to promote the recovery of Baltic cod populations.

The analysis provides a comprehensive review of published literature and reports on cod biology and environmental factors,  as well as an overview of fisheries management, and relevant policy. It gives a detailed overview of the factors influencing the decline of Baltic cod within the sea basin.

The report provides nine concrete recommendations on fisheries management, sustainable improvements to fishing practices, as well as advances in environmental protection. If implemented with urgency, these actions would place Baltic cod on a road to recovery, allowing populations to increase again and form the basis of stable, sustainable fisheries in the future.

Download full report

Download the executive summary with the recommendations:  EnglishSwedish, FinnishDanishGermanLithuanianEstonianLatvianPolish

One step toward protecting the only whale in the Baltic Sea

Authors Ida Carlen and Stina Nyström

Did you know that the harbour porpoise is one of seven species of porpoise in the world? It is the only whale residing permanently in the Baltic Sea. The unique population is listed by IUCN and HELCOM as ‘critically endangered, with only a few hundred animals left.

Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena). Photo by © Alamy Stock Photo / Nature Photographers Ltd

Bycatch in static fishing nets is one of the most acute threats to the Baltic harbour porpoise. The population is so small that even one animal caught in a net is a huge loss and a threat to overall survival. This year we are celebrating that – finally – on 25 February the EU adopted legislation to protect this population from bycatch in some marine protected areas.

This success is derived from extensive lobbying since 2019 when NGOs submitted to the European Commission a joint request for emergency measures for the Baltic Proper harbour porpoise. In May 2020 the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) published scientific advice on how to minimize harbour porpoise bycatch in the Baltic Sea. In line with the EU Common Fisheries Policy, this advice was discussed within the Baltic Sea regional fisheries body, BaltFish. During 2020-2021 BaltFish submitted two joint recommendations to the Commission on measures to minimize bycatch of the Baltic porpoise. These joint recommendations were transcribed into a “delegated act” that has now been approved by the European Parliament and will be implemented over the second half of 2022.

The delegated act contains regulations on closures of static net fisheries in some important harbour porpoise protected areas, as well as the use of pingers and acoustic deterrent devices, on fishing nets in some marine protected areas.

While NGOs are pleased to see these measures being implemented and consider them a good starting point, we are not yet done. The Baltic harbour porpoise must be protected in its entire range, and bycatch must be eliminated for the species to have a chance at a long term future. 

If you are looking to learn more and support the ‘save the Baltic porpoise’ movement you are welcome to sign this petition by Coalition Clean Baltic.

WWF’s Ghostdiver App goes international

Authors Andrea Stolte and Gabriele Dederer

Thanks to a generous grant from the European Environment Initiative fund (EURENI), in early 2022 WWF Germany launched the internationalization of its Ghostdiver App – a direct communication channel between the WWF ghost gear teams and divers.

After three years of successful sonar charting in the German Baltic Sea, WWF uploads sonar suspect positions of lost fishing gear into the app database. Sport divers are invited to verify these positions, simultaneously being warned of any unprofessional retrieval actions. Divers can also report ghost gear and other forms of marine litter through the app. Over time, the picture of gear loss and hot spots of historical ghost gear becomes more and more complete. 

Moving into rougher waters: Sonar testing in the North Sea. Andrea & Gabriele deploying the sonar. © Uli Kunz, WWF

One key milestone of the refurbished Ghostdiver is that the app will become available for all WWF offices to support their own ghost gear projects. Sonar test scans and sport diver activities are planned in pilot areas in Estonia, the Mediterranean and Poland. Trials will be supported by WWF in France, Italy and Poland, as well as by Keep the Estonian Seas Tidy (KEST). After three years of charting fishing areas along the German Baltic coast, we are excited and curious to investigate how the sonar search method performs in other regions of the Baltic, especially in the quite different terrain of the Mediterranean Sea. 

The internationalized version of WWF Ghostdiver is expected to become available in August 2022 – watch out for the news! 

WWF offices interested in learning more about WWF Ghostdiver or our sonar methodology, please contact the ghost gear team.

WWF Sweden celebrate 20 years of its Seafood Guide

Authors Inger Näslund & Inger Melander

On May 19, WWF offices in the Nordic and the Baltic countries will jointly launch their national consumer guides to sustainable fish and seafood.  WWF Sweden´s Seafood Guide (Fiskguiden) is celebrating its 20-year anniversary.

When Fiskguiden was first launched in 2002, it created shock waves that reverberated across grocery stores and fish counters. Red light for Baltic cod – stop buying. Greenlight for herring – dinner is served!

WWF Sweden’s ‘Fishguiden’ turns 20 after having had a significant impact on changing consumer behavior around seafood consumption in Sweden.

“The first guide had an enormous impact on society. Within eight months, the trade sales of Baltic cod, which was on the red list, had halved. The large food chains did not want to trade in something that was environmentally friendly,” says Inger Näslund, Senior Ocean Expert at WWF Sweden.

Today, the Fiskguiden is well established and is used both as a consumer guide for the public and in communication with politicians, companies, supermarkets, public procurement agencies and the food trade sector.

“It is essential that we rebuild overexploited stocks and ecosystems. The seafood you choose can determine whether or not future generations will continue to enjoy the riches of the seas. Our guides in the Baltic region have changed the markets in many countries,” concludes Näslund.

Facts: Unwanted bycatch continues to threaten many endangered species. Poor fisheries management practices globally result in $23.5 billion being lost annually in illegal, unreported and unregulated catch.

The guides cover the most common fish found in freezers and on fresh seafood counters in shops across the respective countries. The guides are digitally available as PDFs on national WWF websites and in some countries as smartphone applications.

Download the WWF Sweden Fiskguiden

The untrawled truth

Authors Freya Duncker and Larissa Milo-Dale

The leading cause of illegal dumping of fish in EU waters is the fishing gear, not the vessel size. New WWF research reveals that 92% of recorded fisheries discards in the EU come from ‘bottom trawl fisheries’ which scrape the seafloor and swallow everything in their path.

In 2019, around 230,000 tonnes of discards were reported in the EU – roughly equivalent to the amount of cod that swam in the North Sea in the early 1970s, when the fish population was healthy. This is despite an EU law called the Landing Obligation that requires all vessels to bring what they catch back to port.

The EU’s fisheries control system – which ensures the Common Fisheries Policy is implemented and rules such as the Landing Obligation are followed – is currently being reformed. As part of this, onboard cameras are likely to become mandatory, however on which vessels and at what scale has not yet been decided. 

WWF’s research highlights the urgent need for cameras to be installed on vessels that engage in trawling, to improve their accountability to the Landing Obligation.

Dr Antonia Leroy, Head of Ocean Policy at the WWF European Policy Office said, “The EU must use its revision of fisheries rules to help protect marine life from destructive practices. We need healthy seas as allies in the fight against the climate crisis, to put food on our plates and to achieve the ambitious goals of the EU Biodiversity Strategy.”

Download the full study

Bottom trawling in the Baltic – Report
In 2020, the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme released a report ‘A sea under pressure: Bottom trawling impacts in the Baltic’, which examined the latest research on bottom trawling impacts in the Baltic Sea and provided a list of recommended policy actions that would help fish populations recover and improve overall biodiversity through ecosystem-based fisheries management. The report includes a recommendation to improve fishing vessel tracking, monitoring and control measures to ensure that bottom trawling does not occur in restricted areas, and to monitor bycatch of non-target species.
Download this report.

Sustainable finance

A Beta Framework for Nature-Related Risk Management

Authors Elisa Vacherand and Hugo Bluet

More than half of the world’s economic output – US$44 trillion of economic value generation – is highly or moderately dependent on nature. Yet most companies, investors and lenders today inadequately account for nature-related risks and opportunities in their decisions. The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), of which WWF is one of the four founding partners, is a risk management and disclosure framework that will encourage corporates and financial institutions to report and act on nature-related risks and opportunities, with the aim of shifting global financial flows toward nature-positive economic activity.

On 15 March the TFND released a beta version of its prototype framework, opening a cycle of consultation and pilot testing. This is an important step toward the final set of recommendations which are expected for the end of 2023.

The beta framework includes three core components:

  1. An outline of fundamental concepts and definitions for understanding nature that the TNFD recommends market participants use when assessing and disclosing their nature-related risks and opportunities;
  2. TNFD’s draft disclosure recommendations for nature-related risks and opportunities; and
  3. ‘How to’ guidance for corporates and financial institutions to undertake nature-related risk and opportunity assessments and incorporate into their enterprise strategy and risk management processes to inform a range of corporate and capital allocation decisions, including those relating to reporting and disclosure

WWF welcomes the release. Increasing the information available for investors and other stakeholders on business dependencies and impacts on nature will be a powerful tool to help shift the flow of global capital to nature-positive outcomes. WWF, as a knowledge partner and member of TNFD’s Stewardship Council, will continue supporting and actively participate in the future developments of the TNFD.

Download the report

Update from Brussels

Get moving for nature!

Author Bartosz Brzezinski

In March, as the European Commission prepared to unveil its highly anticipated proposal for an EU nature restoration law, nearly 15,000 EU citizens, 166 environmental NGOs, and a group of Environment Ministers sent letters expressing their support for the law. But under pressure from vested interests, the Commission delayed the proposal to the end of June.

Restoring degraded ecosystems across the EU can become a real game-changer against the climate and biodiversity crises. To achieve this, the new nature restoration law will set legally binding targets at the EU and member state levels. WWF and other NGOs have been calling for the law to be ambitious, enforceable and timely.

To show that we cannot afford to delay the legislative proposal any longer, and to highlight the incredible benefits that nature restoration has for human health, WWF’s European Policy Office launched a pan-European challenge asking all Europeans to get moving for nature.

Whether it’s on foot or on wheels, in the mountains, local forest or by a favorite lake, people all across Europe are encouraged to submit how many kilometers they have traveled each time they go outdoors, using the Move4Nature website. People can join organized activities or just do it on their own.

Several events were planned across Europe, including a 20 kilometer run in Brussels in May and a run in Lisbon on Earth Hour in March. All participants are encouraged to share messages of why nature matters to them on social media, using the hashtags #Move4Nature and #RestoreNature.

The challenge ends in June, with the total distance achieved handed over to the European Commission and the Environment Ministers in a symbolic gesture of public support for timely and ambitious nature restoration.

Do not hesitate to get in touch with the WWF European Policy Office if you would like to organize your own Move4Nature activity!

On the horizon

WWF and the UN Ocean Conference

Author Pauli Merriman

A healthy and resilient ocean is humanity’s essential ally as we address our combined nature, climate and biodiversity crisis, and it is also vital for people to thrive. The second UN Ocean Conference, hosted by the governments of Portugal and Kenya in Lisbon, Portugal June 27 – 1 July 2022, provides an unmissable opportunity to mobilize support and accelerate action to secure ocean health and achieve a nature-climate-people positive future.

WWF will have a strong presence at the Conference to advance and highlight integrated solutions and key initiatives to secure a healthy ocean for people and nature. Given the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in particular SDG14, WWF has been active in the lead up to this critical conference, building political will, ambition and commitment for ocean action and working with public and private sector partners to support strong outcomes.

At the first UN Ocean conference in 2017, governments, the UN system, civil society organizations, academia, the scientific community and the private sector made over 1,400 voluntary commitments for action to advance the implementation of SDG14. Today there is a renewed call for such commitments for further action and investment. 

While progress has been made, action is not advancing at the required speed or scale. The upcoming Conference provides a powerful platform to build political will and momentum for greater ocean action and investment by both the public and private sectors.

WWF therefore calls on governments and the broader ocean community to reaffirm and implement the commitments made at the first UN Ocean Conference and to make bold new commitments to mobilize urgent action and investment to deliver the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and SDG14 in particular.

We also urge governments to commit to take bold action to: 

  • Secure a transformative, comprehensive and measurable post-2020 global biodiversity framework under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and agree to update the SDG targets with a 2020 timelines. This includes protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030.
  • Take urgent action to deliver all SDG14 targets as soon as possible, including the four targets whose deadlines passed in 2020
  • Accelerate the effective protection, restoration and resilience of critical ocean ecosystems and take forward the recommendations of the UNFCCC Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue to be held in June 2022, to advance and strengthen ocean-based adaptation and mitigation action. 
  • Ensure the rights of Indigenous People and local communities are recognized and secured through the delivery of SDG14, that their right to free, prior and informed consent is respected, and they are equitably benefiting from the sustainable use of the ocean.
  • Successfully conclude negotiations of an ambitious new Ocean Treaty on marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ), including a process for the designation of high seas marine protected areas.  
  • Successfully conclude WTO negotiations to end harmful subsidies that fund the vicious cycle of overfishing, as committed under SDG14.6.   
  • Adopt a global moratorium on deep-sea mining until it can be clearly demonstrated that such activities will not cause adverse impacts on biodiversity and the marine environment.  
  • Incentivize public and private sector investment to advance the delivery of SDG14 and the application of nature-based solutions in coastal and marine areas. Adopt and implement the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles
  • Deliver on the resolutions made at the fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly to end plastic pollution and support nature-based solutions: develop an international, legally binding treaty on plastic pollution and promote the use of nature-based solutions for the achievement of the SDG14 targets.
  • Reaffirm strong links with the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development; incentivize alignment in both action and monitoring.

The Baltic Sea region is well placed to contribute to the success of the UN Ocean Conference by accelerating ocean action, investment and delivery for a nature-climate-people-positive future. Now is the time to work in partnership across the region and beyond to ensure that the 2022 UN Ocean Conference can deliver meaningful progress and solutions for people and nature. We hope to see you in Lisbon!

Meet the team

A new director of the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme!

Contact Johanna Fox

We take a moment to ask the new Director of the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme, Johanna Fox, a few questions about herself, her work, and hopes for the programme.

Johanna Fox, Director of the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme.

What was your previous job/role?

Before joining the WWF I spent 8 years at the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), where I worked on fundraising and marine policy. The last four years I worked as a Project Manager and Marine Policy Officer focusing on marine protected areas (MPAs). I ran SSNC’s advocacy work for a ban on bottom trawling in Swedish MPAs and fisheries regulations in line with the Habitats Directive. I’ve also worked on other topics such as fisheries in general and offshore wind farms. 

What does your kid think you do?

When I asked my soon-to-be 5-year-old daughter, she answered: “Mommy, you’re a boss who tells those who decide – like kings and queens and whatever those other people are called [politicians] – how to save the Baltic. Because the Baltic is not feeling well. And you also try to save the harbour porpoise!”. Minus the kings and queens, she’s not far off.

What most inspires you about your work?

Since I learnt scuba diving as a teenager I’ve wanted to make a lasting, positive change for the ocean. To do this in a team of amazing, driven and incredibly knowledgeable people is truly inspiring. It’s also inspiring to understand the important role NGOs play in the world of ocean policy, and to coordinate and increase the impact of BEP in the Baltic region is such a driving force for me.

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

I strongly believe one must stay optimistic in our line of work; thus, I see a Baltic on a positive trajectory. Through efficient collaboration in HELCOM and the EU, the Baltic countries have finally moved away from a sector approach to handling environmental issues nationally and regionally. Continued efforts to reduce eutrophication have been successful. Issues from PCB and dioxins are mostly a thing of the past and we see policy in place to reduce and- prevent the release of new pollutants. The effects of climate change are noticeable, however, measures such as a network of effectively protected areas and habitat restoration together with a reduction of eutrophication have increased the resilience of Baltic ecosystems. Fishing quotas and opportunities are finally set in line with an ecosystem approach and many fish stocks are in good condition. I wish the cod would have recovered, but even in my optimistic scenario I’m not sure that’s possible. 

According to you, why is working with landscape, seascape and sustainable finance important to improving the state of the Baltic? 

As a small sea, to improve the state of the Baltic we must work on pressures in the whole catchment area – from source to sea. Combating eutrophication is a perfect example: runoff from e.g. agriculture must be reduced, natural buffers such as wetlands must be restored and populations of coastal predatory fish must be strengthened. Similarly, to help the recovery of migratory fish such as eel and salmon, both fishing and river barriers must be addressed. Only through a landscape and seascape perspective can we address the various parts of the Baltic system. For true transformative change, we also need to address the ultimate drivers behind environmental problems, such as financial flows, which is why working on sustainable finance is key. If we can help steer investments to more sustainable and nature-based solutions, we can have a real impact.

What are your hopes for WWF BEP’s work in the region?

My hope is to further strengthen the collaboration and capacity building within the WWF BEP network. Through effective coordination between the various national WWF offices and partners, I hope we can influence regional policy and push for concrete actions such as an ambitious implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan.  The BEP strategy provides a great roadmap and I hope the programme can help ensure ecosystem-based management of the Baltic, better protection and restoration of both landscape and seascape, and to be thought leaders on how investment decisions can factor in the health of the Baltic.


Newsletter editorial support: Sian Owen (Sustainability Options Consulting)

 

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Last modified 19/05/22

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