WWF and Coalition Clean Baltic (CCB) would like to address the following issues of importance for the Baltic Sea environment
1) PSSA designation urgently needed for the whole Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is an unique and extremely sensitive ecosystem. Large number of islands, routes that are difficult to navigate, slow water exchange and lengthy annual periods of ice cover render this sea an especially vulnerable sea area. At the same time the Baltic Sea has some of the most dense maritime traffic in the world.
During the recent decades the traffic in the Baltic area has not only increased, but the nature of the traffic has also changed rapidly. The increase of oil transportation due to higher production and trading strongly increase the risks for oil spills, and this is predicted to continue.
WWF and CCB desire that the whole Baltic Sea will get an official status of a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) as soon as possible, including appropriate additional safety measures to tackle the environmental effects and threats associated with increasing maritime traffic, especially oil shipping, in the area.
2) Oil-extraction in the Baltic Sea – a new threat to the Baltic Sea
Russia is planning to start offshore oil-extraction from a platform outside Kaliningrad, in the D-6 oil deposit, close to the Lithuanian-Russian border on the Baltic Sea shelf. This plan poses a high risk of environmental pollution, accidental oil spills and permanent oil leakages, and other negative impacts.
Baltic environmental NGOs urge Baltic Sea governments and EU to adopt an international moratorium on offshore oil-extraction until binding uniform environmental standards for possible oil-extraction in the Baltic Sea are in place.
We urge the European Commission and Russia to engage in meaningful dialogue and to take immediate steps to conduct an international EIA in a transboundary context for the D6 project with involvement of all interested stakeholders and stop the implementation of this project until the results of this EIA are approved.
3) Protection of the Baltic Biodiverity through a network of Baltic Sea Protected Areas
The marine environment in the Baltic Sea is under heavy human pressure and many habitats and species need urgent protection. An international framework for establishing a network of marine protected areas exists in the Baltic Sea since 1994 through the HELCOM recommendation 15/5. Only one country, however, Lithuania, has fully implemented all designated areas.
To NGO´s it is obvious that the process of establishing a representative network of marine protected areas (BSPAs) has been far too slow. Most contracting parties have not even reached half way through the process.
WWF and CCB demand immediate action for the full implementation of the BSPA network to protect the 62 areas proposed 9 years ago, and the 24 offshore areas.
4) Baltic Sea fisheries in crises
The main Baltic cod stock, the stock east of Bornholm, could be lost in some years, if existing fisheries practices continue. The fishing pressure on Baltic herring is also too high. Bottom trawling is ploughing the seabed and damage the bottom ecosystem. Long drift nets lead to by-catch of harbour porpoises and seabirds.
We call upon the governments of the Baltic Sea states to redirect Baltic Sea fisheries towards sustainability. It is now time to apply a true precautionary approach for Baltic Sea fisheries and follow the scientific advice from ICES. Environment Ministers must persuade their governments to adopt such a policy. Drift nets should be banned in the Baltic Sea as in all other European seas.
As fisheries policy is of exclusive competence of the EC, we especially ask the EC Environmental Commissioner to put strong pressure on the DG Fisheries to adopt an ecosystem based approach to actively promote co-operation between environmental and fisheries authorities, to effectively reduce harmful environmental impacts of fisheries.
WWF and CCB also call upon the Baltic Sea countries to take strong actions to safeguard the survival of the genetic diversity of the wild Baltic salmon. The actions in the IBSFC Salmon Action Plan are not powerful enough to solve the current problem. Protective programs must be developed to secure the long-term survival of these threatened salmon populations.
5) Future of the HELCOM
In the future, HELCOM should act as an active key player in implementing the EU Marine Strategy. An additional value of HELCOM is the inclusion of Russia as one of the contracting parties and an important contributor to the HELCOM process. A further value of HELCOM is to act as a strong voice on behalf of the Baltic Sea within the EU, and e.g. prepare strong requirements at regional level to protect the sensitive Baltic Sea environment.
We want to emphasise the need for developing synergies and cooperation among regional sea conventions, approaches e.g. OSPAR and EU approaches, in order to reach the globally accepted goals from Johannesburg in 2002.
For further information:
WWF: Anita Mäkinen, Marine Officer, mobile +358-40-52 714 25
Coalition Clean Baltic: Gunnar Noren, Executive Secretary, mobile +46-70-560 53 52
Notes to editors:
- EIA: environment impact assessment
- ICES: International Council for the Exploration of the Seas
- IBSFC: International Baltic Sea Fisheries Commission
- HELCOM: the Helsinki Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area. Signatory parties: Denmark, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Finland, Germany and Sweden.
- OSPAR: the Oslo-Paris Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic. Signatory parties: UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Ireland, Belgium, Sweden, France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Luxemburg and Finland.