Ten actions on our Christmas “wishlist” to ensure Ministers deliver a concrete plan to save the Baltic Sea

As the end of the year approaches, children and adults alike, will be writing their wish lists in the hopes that they might get a present on Christmas Eve. We, the Coalition Clean Baltic and WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme, have a special wish this year: a Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) with a focus on real actions to significantly improve the state of the Baltic Sea. We propose to start with ten things that Ministers should do to ensure that the Baltic gets the action plan it deserves.

So far, the Baltic Sea Action Plan has not met any of the four goals that were set back in 2007 [1] In our view, it needs a revolutionary update in order to fulfill any of the pre-existing goals, let alone any additional ones that are added during the update process [2]. The updated plan needs to be more than just a plan – it needs concrete actions that deliver measurable results.

Here are ten actions that all Ministers can do to ensure that Baltic Sea region gets the action plan it deserves:

  1. Adopt an ecosystem-based approach to marine management as a fundamental principle for the entire plan and all activities, to ensure the region is managed as a whole rather than separate components.
  2. Replace all ‘recommendations’ with ‘committed actions’.
  3. Include actions to address Climate Change, with no allowance of human activities which cause for an overshoot of 1,5 °C global warming threshold.
  4. Apply scientific knowledge and data on the potential risks and impacts associated with marine investments, as well as adopt indicators to monitor maritime sectors.
  5. Apply best practices to reduce and mitigate the impact of continuous underwater noise throughout the Baltic Sea Area.
  6. No more  ‘paper parks’ – ensure that Marine Protected Areas are effectively implemented and protected with comprehensive management plans that address all cumulative stressors that impact the MPAs biodiversity.
  7. Ensure the plan links food webs and interspecies considerations to rebuilding fish stocks to reach a stable size and age structure as well as resilient levels of biomass.
  8. Promote the drastic reduction of nutrient run-off, including improved management of nutrient balanced fertilisation as a required measure for all farms.
  9. Waste collection and filtration of pharmaceutical residues should be mandatory in all Countries, coupled with Extended Producer’s Responsibility and wide public awareness in off-and online pharmacies and healthcare institutions. 
  10. Ensure all ports have adequate reception facilities for ship-generated sewage and wastewater.

“The state of our oceans and seas is alarming. We can and must turn the tide on the downward spiral of biodiversity loss. Now more than ever, we need concrete implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan by all Baltic Sea countries in order to avoid continued loss of species and habitats that are symbolic of and essential to this brackish sea. We, in the NGO community, send this wishlist to all Baltic countries to propel them to take the lead and make the updated action plan ambitious and action-oriented. HELCOM has the platform and passion to empower change and save our loved Baltic sea”, says the Coalition Clean Baltic and the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme.

It is the responsibility of the national governments and Ministers involved in the update process to ensure that the action plan effectively benefits both people and nature. In light of the highly disappointing outcomes from COP25 [3], we can not help but wonder – will a Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) be more than a plan or will that remain on our Christmas wish list again next year?

Note to editors:

CCB – Coalition Clean Baltic is a politically independent, non-profit association, which unites 22 member organizations and 2 observers, with over 850,000 members in all countries around the Baltic Sea. The main goal of CCB is to promote the protection and improvement of the Baltic Sea environment and its natural resources. More info at www.ccb.se.

WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme – is an ambitious and highly influential force working to conserve and restore the health of the Balitc Sea. The programme is comprised of WWF and NGO partners in each of the nine coastal Baltic Sea countries. Representing the region’s largest membership network, the programme’s approach has been to work with public and private sector partners toward ensuring a healthy, productive Baltic Sea through sustainable, ecosystem-based management. More info at: panda.org/baltic

[1] The HELCOM State of the Baltic Sea Reportshows that despite a few promising trends in the last 12 years, the objectives of the current BSAP have not been reached and countries have missed the 2020 deadline – outlined in the European Union’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive – to achieve and maintain a ‘Good Environmental Status’ in the sea.

[2] The update process – An updated plan is currently being developed and negotiated by the ten HELCOM members – the nine Baltic Sea countries plus the European Union – and is due to be adopted at a Ministerial Meeting 2021. Its focus will be on the same areas as the current plan with some adaptation to include additional pressures from human activities including: climate change, eutrophication, hazardous substances and litter, sea-based activities and achieve a healthy and resilient ecosystem. It will also address emerging issues to be tackled on a regional scale such as, marine litter, underwater noise and seabed disturbance.

[3] Coalition Clean Baltic climate change report

Contact:

Federica Pastore
Communication Officer, Coalition Clean Baltic (CCB)
federica.pastore@ccb.se
+46707662175

Hannah Griffiths-Berggren
Communications Manager, WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme
hannah.griffiths.berggren@wwf.se
+46739237439