Despite many years of international, national, local and civil society effort, the recovery of the Baltic Sea cannot be taken for granted.
The Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) – widely heralded as the most important agreement to protect and restore our region’s marine environment – was triggered by the political concerns of the mid-2000s and the growing willingness of countries to work together and increase their level of commitment and action. It was with great public enthusiasm that countries jointly agreed, in November 2007, to launch this innovative approach to save the Baltic Sea. Today, however, there are only three years remaining before we reach the target year of 2021 for achieving a healthy Baltic Sea, and the ambitious visions and goals still seem far away. Of course, many aspects of the Baltic Sea environment are improving. The emission trends of many pollutants are decreasing thanks to technical measures and strengthened legislation. Some species that were declining are now recovering. Protected areas are increasing in number. But overall, the Baltic Sea environment remains in a critical state due to lack of efficient delivery of measures and management, and several iconic species, including the harbour porpoise, are still threatened or endangered.
Summary of scorecard results:
- Overall, the actions committed to by HELCOM countries in the 2007 BSAP and later Ministerial Declarations are not being given the priority they deserve and are therefore not delivering in a timely fashion.
- Sweden is the top-ranked country and Russia is the lowest-ranked country, but all nine Baltic Sea countries have failed to make good progress on the delivery of BSAP actions.
- Only one out of the 13 eutrophication actions assessed have been accomplished by all nine Baltic Sea countries; namely identifying land areas critical to nutrient losses. In addition, the development of national programmes for nutrient reduction was recorded accomplished. In this scorecard, it has been re-assessed with less positive results.
- For actions related to hazardous substances, progress is ‘on-going’ – with Denmark making best progress, followed by Finland, Lithuania and Poland. However, only four out of the total ten actions have been fully accomplished by all countries.
- Delivery on the biodiversity actions was weak across the board. Only one-third (9 out of 26) of the actions have been accomplished between 2013–2018. These include, for example, applying and evaluating cross-sectoral MSP principles and developing conservation plan recommendations for species at risk of extinction.
- Good progress was made on maritime activities until 2013, with nearly half of the actions, such as ratification of MARPOL Annex VI and joint submission to IMO on nutrient discharges in sewage from shipping, had been accomplished. Since then, progress has declined with only two actions accomplished and deadlines for all but one of the maritime activities have passed.
- Delivery of a Sustainable Blue Economy in the region was also assessed. Sweden, Finland, Germany and Russia have all made good progress in developing their policies and improving financial conditions to support the delivery of a Sustainable Blue Economy. Progress elsewhere is disappointing.