Oceana calls on HELCOM countries to ensure the Baltic Sea action plan guides environmental policy in the region

Countries must show strong commitment to implementing the targets set forth to repair the poor status of the Baltic Sea.

Press Release Date: March 8, 2013

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

The Member States of the Helsinki Convention on the protection of the Baltic Sea Marine Environment gathered at the 34th Meeting of the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) in Finland, on 5 to 6 March 2013 to decide on urgent rescue measures to halt the degradation of the Baltic marine environment. Oceana, the international marine conservation organization, is deeply concerned that after more than six years the implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan, to restore the good ecological status of the Baltic marine environment by 2021, lacks progress in many key areas. HELCOM countries agreed on this ambitious rescue plan in 2007.

The vulnerable ecosystems of the Baltic Sea are severely damaged and the world’s largest brackish water body is one of the most polluted seas. According to EU law, measures to achieve a good environmental status of the Baltic Sea must be implemented now. Yet, despite the urgency of the situation and the importance of the Action Plan in the meeting’s agenda, contracting parties have only recently started thinking about its content and only a few provided input to the declaration and voiced the importance of focusing on the implementation of the targets already agreed on in the plan.   

“The Baltic Sea Action Plan must lead the way in environmental policy, and guide decision makers; but only a plan with clear environmental goals and strict deadlines for its implementation can achieve this,” stated Hanna Paulomäki, Oceana’s Baltic Sea project manager. “HELCOM countries now face a crucial choice: they can stick to short term economic interests, or they can stop postponing deadlines and start using our common resources sustainably. I hope they are brave enough and do not water down the agreement they made in 2007.”

While it is most certain that countries urgently need to apply the pollution reduction measures laid out in the Action Plan, one cannot ignore the lack of sufficient protection of marine species and habitats that continues to threaten the richness and resilience of the sea. Improving the poor status of some commercially important fish, like cod, salmon, sea trout and eel requires will also require strong action if the 2021 target is to be achieved.

This October, HELCOM countries will once again gather review progress made on the implementation of the plan and will agree on a Ministerial Declaration spelling out the most important environmental targets and concerns for the Baltic Sea. Oceana is urging environmental Ministers to ensure that these are properly addressed and implemented in other policy areas such as agriculture, fisheries and development.

“Without such a commitment, the Baltic Sea Action Plan risks becoming an ambitious but toothless piece of paper,” added Paulomäki.