• Five out of nine Baltic Sea countries have plans in place for wildlife polluted from marine spills

According to a new HELCOM report released today, five Baltic Sea countries have established plans for handling polluted wildlife during marine pollution incidents, mostly created via active partnerships between authorities and NGOs. Other coastal countries are still identifying proper approaches and developing resources.

Different approaches to wildlife response have been selected by those Baltic Sea coastal countries which have procedures in place. Some countries have chosen cleaning and rehabilitation of polluted wildlife as the default approach, others apply euthanasia unless species with conservation interest are involved.

Images of oiled wildlife are among the strongest symbols of accidental spills. However, nationally coordinated strategies on how to deal with wildlife affected by spills is a surprisingly recent phenomenon and still relatively rare worldwide.

Photo_Antti Haavisto_WWF-1b.jpg
Photo: Antti Haavisto/WWF

In the Baltic Sea, explicit regional cooperation on oiled wildlife response appeared first with the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan of 2007. The first dedicated regional legal instrument on oiled wildlife response cooperation in the Baltic Sea was HELCOM Recommendation 31E/6 on integrated wildlife response planning, adopted in 2010.

Based on the HELCOM Recommendation 31E/6 and 2013 HELCOM Ministerial Declaration, the Baltic Sea coastal countries are to develop a wildlife response plan, integrated into oil pollution contingency plans, either on a national or sub-national/local level by 2016, and to apply the commonly agreed guidelines on its contents including e.g. aims, minimum standards and involvement of volunteers.

A dedicated HELCOM Expert Working Group on Oiled Wildlife Response (EWG OWR) was set up in 2014 to support the implementation of these goals.

"HELCOM is currently the only Regional Agreement in the world that has set genuine aims for the integration of oiled wildlife preparedness and response in national and regional emergency response systems" says Hugo Nijkamp, chair of the HELCOM EWG-OWR. "Still there is work to do in order to meet the set targets in this field of oil spill response, but as a result of progress made so far, some countries are definitely better prepared and there are lots of interesting lessons learned."

Download the Report on the status of national wildlife response plans in the Baltic Sea here.

Note for editors

HELCOM Response Working Group works to ensure swift national and international responses to maritime pollution incidents, including in case of accident the availability of appropriate equipment and the joint practice of response procedures in cooperation with neighbouring states. The group also coordinates the released into the Baltic Sea and help identify suspected polluters. The meetings of the HELCOM RESPONSE Group have been held regularly among all Baltic Sea countries and EU for over thirty years.

The Response group includes Expert Working Group on Oiled Wildlife Response (EWG OWR), HELCOM Expert Coordination Network on Response on the Shore (SHORE network), Informal Working Group on Aerial Surveillance (IWGAS) and HELCOM Expert Group on Environmental Risks of Hazardous Submerged Objects (SUBMERGED).

The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as HELCOM, is an intergovernmental organization of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. Since 1974, HELCOM has been the governing body of the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’, more commonly known as the Helsinki Convention.

For more information, please contact:

Hugo Nijkamp
Tel. +32494900012
Email: nijkamp(at)sea-alarm.org

Susanna Kaasinen
HELCOM Secretariat (report editor)
Tel. +358 40 536 5819
Email: susanna.kaasinen(at)helcom.fi

Hermanni Backer
Professional Secretary
HELCOM Response
Tel. +358468509199
Email: Hermanni.backer(at)helcom.fi