Atlantic and Baltic join forces
Ministerial representatives from twenty countries and the European Community worked together in the first joint meeting of the Helsinki and OSPAR Commissions, 25-26 June 2003 in Bremen, Germany, to improve the protection of the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic and the Baltic Sea.
Ministerial representatives from twenty countries and the European Community worked together in the first joint meeting of the Helsinki and OSPAR Commissions to improve the protection of the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic and the Baltic Sea. This unprecedented meeting demonstrated the depth of political commitment across the whole of Europe – from Greenland and Iceland to Russia, from Spitzbergen and Norway to the Straits of Gibraltar – to protecting our seas.
Three themes were particularly stressed. First, the need for an ecosystem approach to the management of human activities that affect the seas. Only by looking at the way in which the whole ecosystem may be affected by policies and decisions can we be sure that we are acting sustainably.
Secondly, the European Union initiative for a European Marine Strategy and the enlargement of the European Union underline the need for a clear route-map on how all the many authorities – national and international – should collaborate to protect the seas. The Helsinki (HELCOM) and OSPAR Commissions have set out in detail what they can contribute to a European Marine Strategy, and the Ministers have welcomed the opportunity to work on its development and adoption.
Thirdly, HELCOM and OSPAR have stressed the need for joint action to protect threatened and declining species and habitats. They have pledged themselves to create by 2010 an ecologically coherent network of well managed marine protected areas covering the North-East Atlantic and the Baltic Sea.
In addition, the Ministers considered the environmental impact of fisheries and shipping. On fisheries, they emphasised how the ecosystem approach could help and identified particular issues that need collaboration between fisheries management and environmental protection. On shipping, they recognised the importance of improving both maritime safety and the safeguards against the impact of shipping incidents (such as additional requirements for the use of double hulls), in order to prevent and control such threats to the marine environment. They therefore welcomed many initiatives that have been launched, and committed themselves to support their further development.
At the same time the Helsinki Commission and the OSPAR Commission held separate Ministerial meetings to discuss issues of separate importance to the North-East Atlantic and the Baltic Sea.
In response to the steadily rising risk of oil pollution in the Baltic and the persistent symptoms of eutrophication, the Environment Ministers and other high-level representatives of the countries around the Baltic Sea, and the European Community, have unanimously adopted a Ministerial Declaration and ten new HELCOM Recommendations.
HELCOM prioritized safe navigation and emergency-response capacity, curbing deliberate illegal oil discharges and examination of the possibilities of designation of the Baltic Sea as a “Particularly Sensitive Sea Area” by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Finland and Sweden will organise a meeting to further elaborate this issue.
In combating eutrophication, making agriculture environmentally more sustainable and continued reduction of inputs of nutrients from other sources were emphasised.
The Ministers agreed that HELCOM should continue to serve as the focal point in the Baltic Sea region on issues related to environmental protection and indicated that areas of special priority should include joint monitoring and assessment of the state of the Baltic marine environment, nature conservation, eutrophication, hazardous substances and maritime safety.
The OSPAR Commission up-dated the strategies that govern its work and are aimed at bringing the North-East Atlantic within one generation to a healthy and sustainable condition, and adopted a new monitoring and assessment strategy to prepare for the next overall assessment in 2010 and to monitor progress with the other strategies.
OSPAR also identified 27 species and 10 types of habitat that are in need of protection and established the basis in its area for the network of marine protected areas.
OSPAR reviewed the progress of the programme for the implementation of the Radioactive Substances Strategy. It welcomed the fact that all Contracting Parties had developed detailed national plans for implementation. It further settled a baseline, with a reference period of 1995-2001, for measuring progress towards the objective of the Strategy.
OSPAR noted the concerns expressed by a number of Contracting Parties about discharges of technetium-99 from Sellafield and their view that these discharges should cease immediately. OSPAR welcomed the recent initiative of the United Kingdom to request the operator of Sellafield to stop discharges from the MAC treatment process for the next nine months while further research and development of abatement technology is carried out. OSPAR looked forward to the introduction of such technology to treat remaining MAC if it proves to be technically feasible.
Finally, OSPAR adopted an important instrument to ensure that all offshore installations in its area have, by 2005, environmental management systems that meet the highest international standards.
Notes to editors
1. The Baltic Marine Environment Commission (the Helsinki Commission) was established in 1980 and its legal mandate from 1974 was updated in 1992 (Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area). The Helsinki Commission consists of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Russian Federation and Sweden, together with the European Community.
2. The OSPAR Commission for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic was formed in 1992 by the merger of the 1972 Oslo Convention and the 1974 Paris Convention. It comprises Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, together with the European Community.
3. The OSPAR Strategies cover: biodiversity and ecosystems protection, eutrophication, hazardous substances, the offshore oil and gas industry and radioactive substances.
4. HELCOM activities cover prevention of land-based pollution, nature conservation and coastal zone management, environmentally safe and sound shipping, response to maritime pollution, monitoring and assessment of the state of the Baltic Sea environment as well as coordination of investment activities for the upgrading of point and non-point sources of pollution.