Over 30 percent of the marine protected areas in the Baltic are protected only on paper, threatening the recovery of this sea.
In reality, business carries on as usual inside so-called protected areas.
While the number of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Baltic Sea and Kattegat continues to increase, the number of areas with actual protection measures unfortunately, isn’t growing at the same rate. Many MPAs completely lack plans that regulate the activities within them. Oceana’s latest report sheds light on this problem and details the shortcomings of Baltic MPAs, based on information from governmental and inter-governmental bodies, the EU and existing literature.
“It’s disappointing that the only place you can find protection in these areas is in their names. All nine Baltic countries have committed themselves to proper marine protection in order to reach a set of environmental targets. If they are serious about overturning the worrying state of the Baltic Sea, there needs to be a radical change of course”, stated Hanna Paulomäki, Oceana’s Baltic Sea project manager.
Key facts from the report:
It is also worth noting that many of the existing management plans are just descriptive overviews of the areas listing species, habitats and possible threats, and do not include any real protection measures. Fisheries, for example are hardly ever regulated within MPAs, even though some of the areas are feeding or breeding grounds for fish. Besides affecting the targeted species, some fishing practices, like bottom trawling also pose a threat to the marine environment.
“There is very little to gain by mapping out an area, writing down the different species that live there, and then calling it protected. Focus needs to be on better design and implementation”, added Christina Abel, Oceana’s marine scientist. “When people hear their decision makers talk about protecting the Baltic Sea, I think most are happy that the environment is being taken care of. What they don’t expect, is that this effort is nothing short of an illusion.”
The Baltic faces a lot of threats that put its ecosystems under severe pressure and have caused it to become one of the most polluted seas in the world. Baltic Sea countries agreed to establish a network of MPAs, which has been recognized as an effective tool to address these threats. Today around 12 percent of the Baltic has been designated for protection.
Oceana’s report: Management Matters: Ridding the Baltic Sea of Paper Parks