HELCOM Ministers agree to boost efforts for the restoration of the Baltic Sea
Moscow, 20 May (HELCOM Information Service) – The Ministerial-level Meeting of HELCOM ended here today with the adoption of the Moscow Declaration which states the intention of the Baltic Sea countries to reinforce joint efforts to restore the good ecological status of the Baltic marine environment. The aim of the Ministerial Meeting was to evaluate the first results of the implementation of the strategic HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan to radically reduce pollution to the sea and restore its good ecological status by 2021.
The Declaration contains numerous actions to improve the status of the Baltic Sea, many of them addressing the reduction of inputs of nitrogen and phosphorus to the sea to fight eutrophication. Elimination of the use of phosphates in detergents was discussed at length by the Ministers. They agreed on the elimination of phosphates in laundry detergents for consumer use by 2015 and on encouraging the voluntary use of P-free dishwasher detergents. Elimination of phosphates in detergents is an efficient measure which has potential to result in quick and significant reductions of phosphorus inputs to the sea from areas where waste water treatment has not yet been upgraded to the level required by HELCOM.
“The representatives of HELCOM Members particularly agreed on the need to fully implement the measures included to the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan, and to reinforce their actions to this end,” says Igor Maydanov, HELCOM’s Chairman. “We also agreed on the need for supplementary actions, and specifically taking into account that climate change may have profound consequences both for the environmental status of the Baltic Sea as well as for the scope of the measures adopted by the HELCOM Members until now.”
The Declaration stresses that HELCOM’s work has led to significant environmental improvements in many areas, but that a large number of problems have yet to be fully addressed and that major threats still persist which are hindering restoration, protection and sustainable utilisation of the marine goods and services provided by the Baltic Sea. The representatives of the HELCOM Members also stressed that the efforts to restore the good environmental status of the Baltic Sea require forceful national and international actions that exceed the capacity of any individual country and therefore the restoration also demands a common line of actions and the support of a wide range of stakeholders.
At the Ministerial Meeting, the HELCOM Member States tabled their National Implementation Programmes describing how they will implement further actions to curb eutrophication and halt inputs of hazardous substances to reach the objectives of the Baltic Sea Action Plan. These programmes include concrete measures to reach the provisional country-wise pollution reduction targets set in the Baltic Sea Action Plan. With the National Implementation Programmes in place, the work to further reduce the pollution loads entering the sea will pick up pace considerably. Also, the Member States agreed to by 2011 elaborate National Implementation Programmes to halt the decline of biodiversity, ensure environmentally safe maritime activities and response capacity, and increase awareness raising according to the objectives of the Baltic sea action Plan.
Additionally, a major holistic assessment of the status of the Baltic marine environment was released at the Meeting. This assessment has been prepared to support the implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan. All National Implementation Programmes will be measured against this assessment. The latest available data indicates an overall reduction in nutrient pollution loads entering the Baltic Sea as a whole. Some countries have made significant progress towards their provisional nutrient pollution reduction targets. But the overall situation is still unacceptable. Excessive loads of nitrogen and phosphorus from land-based sources are still feeding eutrophication with symptoms of blooms of nuisance algae unfavourable changes in Baltic plant and animal communities. Countries need to react urgently and apply the pollution reduction measures specified in the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan. Failure to act now would undermine the prospects for the future recovery of the sea, and endanger a vital resource for the future economic prosperity of the whole region.
The Meeting marks the end of Russia’s two-year Chairmanship of HELCOM. Mr. Maydanov handed over the symbolic chairmanship key to the incoming chair of HELCOM, Ms. Gabriella Lindholm from Sweden.
The overarching Baltic Sea Action Plan which was adopted by HELCOM in 2007 provides a framework for managing the Baltic marine environment using an integrated and holistic approach to address all major environmental problems affecting the sea.
The most serious is eutrophication which leads to problems like increased algal blooms, murky waters, oxygen depletion and lifeless sea bottoms. The plan includes concrete and meaningful actions to curb eutrophication that is caused by excessive loads of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) originating in runoff from farmland and inadequately treated municipal sewage, prevent pollution involving hazardous substances, improve maritime safety and accident response capacity, and halt habitat destruction and the decline in biodiversity. The plan also contains provisional country-wise annual input reduction targets for both nitrogen and phosphorus.
Note to Editors:
The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as the Helsinki Commission, or HELCOM, is an intergovernmental organisation of all the nine Baltic Sea countries and the EU which works to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution.
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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