HELCOM Baltic recovery plan nearly complete
Helsinki, 19 September (HELCOM Information Service) – The HELCOM Member States made considerable progress in negotiating the final version of the Baltic Sea Action Plan at the Meeting of the Heads of Delegation to the Commission, held on 17-19 September in Helsinki. The main aim of the three-day session was to bring countries’ positions closer on the provisions of this ambitious new HELCOM strategy to drastically reduce pollution to the Baltic Sea and restore its good ecological status by 2021 which is due to be tabled for endorsement by the Ministers of the Baltic Sea countries in November.
“The Baltic Sea Action Plan is now nearly complete,” said Prof. Mieczyslaw Ostojski, Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, commenting on the outcome of the Meeting. “Although difficult issues still remain to be resolved, I think we have made considerable headway on the most complex area of the debate: what are the maximum allowable pollution inputs into the sea and how to share the burden of pollution reduction between the coastal countries. And I am confident that the final strategy will be ready by November,” said Ostojski.
Representatives of the coastal countries involved in the negotiations worked almost around the clock in order to find a compromise on the disputed issues in the draft HELCOM action plan. As a result, differences were resolved over some of the required pollution reduction levels and the proposed actions for the plan’s four segments, which include measures to curb eutrophication caused by excessive nutrient loads entering the sea, prevent pollution involving hazardous substances, improve maritime safety and accident response capacity, and halt habitat destruction and the decline in biodiversity. In order to finalize the outstanding issues the delegations of the coastal countries decided to hold two final meetings in October.
The Baltic Sea Action Plan, which the HELCOM Member States decided to jointly draft in 2005, sets an ambitious target of achieving by 2021 a good ecological status of the Baltic Sea - a sea with diverse biological components functioning in balance and supporting a wide range of sustainable human economic and social activities. It incorporates input of major stakeholders groups, and the findings of numerous project studies, workshops, and key regional environmental policies. This plan has already been widely heralded as a pilot project for the European seas under the EU Marine Strategy and a model to be followed by other regional marine conventions around Europe.
The HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan is designed to solve all major environmental problems affecting the Baltic marine environment. Of the many environmental challenges, the most serious, and proving difficult to tackle with conventional approaches, is the continuing eutrophication of the Baltic Sea, caused by excessive nutrient pollution loads of nitrogen and phosphorus to the sea originating from agriculture and untreated sewage. Problems like algal blooms, dead sea-beds, depletion of fish stocks clearly show the situation and call for immediate wide-scale action to put an end to further destruction of the Baltic Sea environment to avoid an irreversible disaster.
According to a draft HELCOM study, the estimated maximum total nutrient pollution input to the Baltic Sea that can be allowed and still makes it possible to reach good environmental status is 21,060 tonnes of phosphorus and 601,713 tonnes of nitrogen. In 1997-2003, the inputs were 36,310 tonnes of phosphorus and 736,713 tonnes of nitrogen, therefore, an estimated reduction of 15,250 tonnes of phosphorus and 135,000 tonnes of nitrogen from the averaged inputs of 1997-2003 is required to reach a good environmental status of the Baltic Sea.
Note to Editors:
The Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), officially known as the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, is an intergovernmental organisation of all the nine Baltic Sea countries and the EU working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation.
HELCOM is the governing body of the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area," known as the Helsinki Convention.
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