Dumping, marine constructions and aquaculture are the most commonly forbidden activities in Baltic Sea marine protected areas (MPAs). Yet, a recent HELCOM report reveals that eutrophication, commercial fishing and pollution have a greater damaging impact. Oceana is deeply concerned that authorities have made little to no progress in developing plans to address the real threats facing this troubled sea. Commercial fishing, for example is an existing threat to about 60% of Baltic Sea MPAs and a possible threat to about 30% of them, yet less than half of the management plans for these areas even mention fisheries.
“Commercial fishing has been singled out as a threat in nine out of ten MPAs in the Baltic. It’s remarkable that bottom trawling, for example, is allowed in many of these MPAs. It’s a bit like allowing unregulated deforestation within our national parks on land,” says Hanna Paulomäki, Oceana’s Baltic Sea project manager.
Baltic countries have committed themselves to developing and implementing comprehensive management plans for MPAs. So far however, most countries are failing to fulfill these obligations, and many protected areas exist only on paper. Though there is a reasonable number of MPAs in the Baltic Sea and Kattegat, most are missing regulated protection against the most common, and destructive threats.
“Damage from some human activities can be reduced faster than others. It takes, for instance, longer to see actual changes in the effect of nutrient emissions on the marine environment, as the cause of this damage stems from agriculture in the catchment area – something that MPA management proposals cannot directly address. The impacts of fisheries however can be regulated directly, and the positive effect of such regulations can be seen much faster,” added Paulomäki.
MPAs have been recognized as an efficient tool for preserving and restoring biodiversity, and in helping to maintain healthy fish stocks if properly managed.
Read more: Oceana’s MPA proposals for the Baltic Sea