Countries fall short on promise of a healthy Baltic Sea | WWF

Countries fall short on promise of a healthy Baltic Sea

Posted on 05 March 2018    
WWF Baltic Sea Action Plan 2018
© WWF Sweden

Ten years after the original Baltic Sea Action Plan was signed, the recovery of the Baltic Sea remains slow - and is in some respects worsening. Today, WWF released “The Baltic Sea Action Plan Scorecard 2018”, a report revealing that the Baltic Sea coastal countries are failing to deliver on their commitments for a healthy Baltic Sea by 2021 and show little indication that this will change.

The Baltic Sea Action Plan Scorecard 2018 assesses the progress by HELCOM contracting countries towards their Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) commitments. The results are bleak showing insufficient progress across all four themes addressed by the Action Plan – eutrophication, hazardous substances, biodiversity and maritime activities. Of the 58 most significant and on-going actions assessed, under one third have been accomplished (16 out of 58 actions).

The scorecard shows large differences in the implementation of the BSAP between the top ranked country, Sweden, and the lowest ranked country, Russia. However, none of the nine countries stands out as having taken sufficient actions in any of the areas, indicating that no country will be able to deliver to the agreed deadlines.

“The Baltic Sea Action Plan is a unique initiative to unite the countries around the Baltic Sea under one shared action plan,” said Ottilia Thoresen, Director for the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme. “However, at the present speed of progress, this initiative is clearly failing to meet its deadline of 2021. The sea is still suffering from a number of pressures, such as eutrophication with vast areas of dead zones, and important species like the Baltic harbour porpoise and European eel remain critically endangered.”

Countries score best in the delivery of actions on hazardous substance reductions, maritime spatial planning and protection of HELCOM marine species, but have not performed well in terms of the numbers of actions within each category; for example, only one of the 13 actions has been achieved for eutrophication, and only one-third of the biodiversity actions have been fully accomplished.   Further, an assessment on delivering Sustainable Blue Economy actions in the region shows good progress by Sweden and Finland, with Germany and Russia not far behind. The other five Baltic Sea countries however, lag further behind in terms of creating the right framework to facilitate develpoment towards a Sustainable Blue Economy.

With only three years to go to the BSAP goal line of 2021, the Baltic Sea region countries face a massive challenge. The responsibility for restoring the Baltic Sea to good environmental health and improving its performance as an economic resource belongs to everyone. Despite country-by-country remedial measures, there remains a strong need for regional-scale action and Baltic-specific approaches, in particular for transnational sectors and issues such as shipping, oil spill response, management of shared fish stocks and eutrophication.

“Baltic-specific approaches are needed to ensure a level playing field with respect to all sectors. There is also a great need to establish monitoring and reporting systems to ensure we can measure and set shared guidelines for progress to get the Baltic Sea back on track,” said Ottilia.
More results from the Baltic Sea Scorecard 2018:
  • Overall, the actions committed to by the HELCOM countries in the 2007 BSAP and later Ministerial Declarations are not being given the priority they deserve and are therefore not delivering in a timely fashion.
  • Sweden is the top ranked country and Russia is the lowest ranked country, but all nine Baltic Sea countries have failed to make good progress on the delivery of BSAP actions.
  • Only one out of the 13 eutrophication actions assessed have been accomplished by all nine Baltic Sea countries; namely identifying land areas critical to nutrient losses. In addition, the development of national programmes for nutrient reduction was recorded accomplished. In this scorecard, it has been re-assessed with less positive results.
  • For actions related to hazardous substances, progress is ‘on-going’  - with Denmark making best progress, followed by Finland, Lithuania and Poland. However, only four out of the total ten actions have been fully accomplished by all countries.
  • Delivery on the biodiversity actions was weak across the board. Only one-third (9 out of 26) of the actions have been accomplished between 2013-2018. These include, for example, applying and evaluating cross-sectoral MSP principles and developing conservation plan recommendations for species at risk of extinction.
  • Good progress was made on maritime activities until 2013, with nearly half of the actions, such as ratification of MARPOL Annex VI and joint submission to IMO on nutrient discharges in sewage from shipping, had been accomplished. Since then, progress has declined with only two actions accomplished and deadlines for all but one of the maritime activities have passed.
  • Delivery of a Sustainable Blue Economy in the region was also assessed. Sweden, Finland, Germany and Russia have all made good progress in developing their policies and improving financial conditions to support the delivery of a Sustainable Blue Economy. Progress elsewhere is disappointing.


WWF’s recommendations to reach the BSAP goal line 2021

The Baltic Sea coastal countries must adopt a persistent focus to implement the agreed BSAP actions, including:

– Placing significantly greater attention on achieving nutrient reduction targets for all sources of both nitrogen and phosphorus
– Assessing, agreeing and implementing appropriate measures for a wide range of unaddressed hazardous substances
– Making stronger commitment to reversing the HOLAS II report findings with respect to biodiversity and Baltic Sea food webs
– Increasing efforts on the delivery of actions to maritime activities, particularly to address the threat from invasive, non-indigenous species
Countries must report promptly and in detail on progress while HELCOM evaluates implementation gaps
Baltic Sea EU Members must ensure that future reform and delivery of regional drivers, such as the CAP and CFP, allow for the specialised requirements of the Baltic Sea
HELCOM must provide leadership for the delivery of a Sustainable Baltic Blue Economy
Countries must commit increased financing for BSAP and Sustainable Blue Economy implementation – the investment will be rewarded

Thinking beyond 2021 to address Baltic Sea Challenges

HELCOM and Baltic Sea coastal countries must:
– Revamp the BSAP to be responsive to the challenges of today and those of the future including challenges associated with global change
– Demonstrate leadership to achieving a Sustainable Blue Economy
– Become a flagship for the implementation of the SDGs in Baltic and global context
Baltic Facts:
The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea (Helsinki Convention HELCOM) was signed in 1974 by seven Baltic Sea coastal sites. Today, it includes nine Baltic Sea countries as well as the EU Commission, providing an important delivery mechanism for EU policies, as well as a bridge between Russia and Europe.  

In November 2007, HELCOM countries adopted the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) with the vision of reaching “a healthy Baltic Sea, with diverse biological components functioning in balance, resulting in a good ecological status and supporting a wide range of sustainable human, economic and social activities,”. The BSAP set to reach its goal by 2021 at the latest. The BSAP will be reviewed at the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting, 6th March 2018.
For more information, contact:
Ottilia Thoreson, Director, WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme
Tel: +46 (0)8-624 74 15, +46 73 27 45 867
WWF Baltic Sea Action Plan 2018
© WWF Sweden Enlarge
Table of overall scores.
© WWF Sweden Enlarge
The Polish coast and algae blooms
© WWF Poland/Dariusz Bogdal Enlarge

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