WWF slams EU countries for poor care of Baltic Sea


The Baltic Sea ecosystem could collapse unless states bordering it find common ground on ways to decrease maritime pollution, according to a new report from WWF, which accuses governments of failing to take responsibility for working to improve the situation.

Vast algal blooms, such as those that threatened to disrupt watersports during the Beijing Olympics, cover large parts of the Baltic Sea, killing off large swathes of the seabed as oxygen fails to spread throughout the water – a process known as eutrophication. 

The build-up of plant growth is caused by an increase in the volume of nutrients in the water as a result of sewage, shipping pollution or agricultural run-off. 

Seven of the world’s ten largest “dead zones” are found in the Baltic Sea, making it the world’s most damaged, according to WWF. 

But despite the situation, all nine Baltic Sea states (Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Finland, Sweden and Poland) have failed to take the necessary measures. 

“The only area where progress is clear appears to be fisheries management,” states the green NGO, which graded all of the states on the measures they have taken to address six key issues: biodiversity degradation, fish stock depletion, discharges of hazardous substances, shipping pollution, eutrophication, as well as how they have succeeded in developing an integrated sea-use management system. 

All nine states received an “extremely disappointing” F grade (ranging from 25% for Poland to 46% for Germany) – a key failing being cooperation on integrated and concerted actions. 

“The Baltic Sea is influenced by a multitude of human activities, regulated by a patchwork of international and national regulations and authorities”, said WWF Sweden Chairman Lasse Gustavsson. Despite acknowledging the challenge this poses to finding common ground among the nine states, it should not be viewed as an excuse, argues the report. 

“What the Baltic Sea needs now is political leadership that can look beyond national or sectoral interests,” added Gustavsson. 

The report showcases Finland as the only country in the region to have a cross-sectoral marine policy that addresses all these issues as a whole. The WWF hopes this will have a knock-on effect among other countries and believes the EU’s new Maritime Policy should then add the necessary impetus to seek a common solution to the problem. 

The recent EU Maritime Strategy Directive calls on member states to “achieve good environmental status of the EU’s marine waters by 2021 and to protect the resource base upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend”. 

Additionally, the Commission is expected to propose a Baltic Sea Strategy by June 2009, which will concentrate on enhancing marine environment standards. 


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