Pollution reduction measures are but one of many critical steps needed to restore good ecological status to the Baltic Sea.
Destructive fishing practices and poorly managed Marine Protected Areas continue to threaten the richness and resilience of the sea.
Oceana, the international marine conservation organization, is deeply concerned that after more than three years the implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan to restore the good ecological status of the Baltic marine environment lacks progress in key areas. While it is most certain that countries urgently need to apply the pollution reduction measures specified in the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan, one cannot ignore that destructive fishing practices and poorly managed marine protected areas continue to threaten the richness and resilience of the sea. Overall, the outcome of the 32nd Annual HELCOM Meeting in Helsinki on March 9-10, was discouraging.
Fishing is only seldom regulated inside protected areas and the extent of the use of bottom trawls is largely unknown yet this type of fisheries causes physical destruction of marine habitats. In addition, most of the commercially fished species remain largely unmanaged.
“Politicians must finally acknowledge that focusing only on short term economic interests is jeopardizing the rights of millions of consumers to a healthy marine environment and sustainably caught, unpoisoned fish,” says Oceana’s Baltic Sea project manager Anne Schroeer.
The vulnerable ecosystems of the Baltic Sea are severely damaged and the world’s largest brackish water body is one of the most polluted seas of the world – but, according to EU law, measures to achieve a good environmental status of the Baltic Sea must be implemented now.
In 2010, HELCOM ministers agreed to add off-shore areas to the network of marine protected areas in the Baltic and apply ecosystem based management to fisheries. Overall countries agreed to transform the Baltic Sea into a model of good management.
The newly established Oceana Baltic Sea office in Copenhagen will support these initiatives and is working to halt damaging fishing practices and improve the network of marine protected areas in the Baltic Sea. The international marine conservation organisation declares that their goal is to contribute to achieving a healthy sea that benefits coastal communities, consumers and marine species and habitats at risk.
“The experts in our new Baltic office combine a deep knowledge of the Baltic Sea ecosystems with Oceana’s experience in developing and implementing tailored campaigns to protect the world’s oceans,” added Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “As our colleagues do in the Mediterranean, the South Atlantic, North and South America, they will engage governments, politicians, institutions and consumers to work towards restoring the Baltic Sea.”
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