Oceana calls on stronger baltic Government controls and enforcement of fisheries and marine protected areas measures

Recent HELCOM news of a 75% decrease in Baltic oil spills, as a result of aerial and satellite surveillance, proves the effectiveness of government controls.

Press Release Date: May 31, 2012

Location: Madrid


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

Oceana strongly asserts that a dedicated approach by authorities must be used to end illegal fishing activities in the Baltic, and to strengthen and enforce regulations in Marine Protected Areas. The international marine conservation organization is pleased with the information provided by HELCOM in early May, which shows that the reduction of oil spills in the Baltic Sea is clearly related to the increase of time spent conducting aerial surveillance by coastal states.

An increase from approximately 3.000 to 5.500 hours of flight time saw a 75% decrease in spills from 763 in 1989 to 122 in 2011. Oceana applauds the joint efforts of HELCOM and Baltic states for this measurable improvement. Oceana could witness first hand one of the operations of the anti-pollution operative, when an airplane participating in a joint Swedish, Finnish, Polish and Estonian initiative a few weeks ago flew several times over the organisation’s research vessel Hanse Explorer as it did with any other ship in the area.

“This is the best way to ensure the effectiveness of regulations. The behavior of seafarers improves when they know that they can be caught doing something illegal,” stated marine scientist Hanna Paulomäki, Oceana’s Baltic Sea Project manager. “Surveillance and enforcement are the keys to the path to recovery for the Baltic sea’s poor environmental state, which was brought about by irresponsible activities. HELCOM and Baltic country governments should be congratulated for their efforts.”

According to Oceana, the capacity of the Baltic governments to carry out fisheries and marine protected areas surveillance exists: “There is no place in the Baltic where our research vessel can go without being controlled by patrol boats or aircraft from the different national Coast Guard services. They rightly carry their duties watching our activities. Governments should apply the same strict enforcement criteria to fishing boats working in all Baltic waters”, added Paulomäki.

The first signs of recovery of the Eastern Baltic cod stock after being heavily overfished are another example of effective action by the governments in the region. Similar management plans must be applied to the remaining stocks in the Baltic which are overfished – and those which are currently without any management measures. Furthermore, the restoration of a healthy food chain is argued by many scientists to help reduce the problem of eutrophication in the Baltic Sea.

“Some people say it is too late to bring back the Baltic Sea to a good environmental state. They are wrong,” added Xavier Pastor, European Executive Director for Europe. “Oceana’s expedition findings of resilient species and ecosystems, show that there is still a strong possibility of recovery if discharges are dramatically reduced, illegal fishing is ended and an effective network of marine protected areas covering up to 30% of the sea is established.”

In 2005, Oceana campaigned to pass a proposal in the European Parliament to criminalize oil spills. This proposal was approved and came into force later that year. Before that, few European countries had strong legislation against the dumping of hydrocarbons at sea and while in some, accidental oil spills and bilge water discharges were illegal, penalties were much too soft to prevent these destructive occurrences.

Learn more: Oceana 2012 Baltic Sea Expedition