Nine Baltic sea states all scored failing grades in an annual WWF evaluation of their performance in protecting and restoring the world’s most damaged sea.
The assessment, presented today at the Baltic Sea Festival, graded the countries on how well they are doing in six separate areas - biodiversity, fisheries, hazardous substances, marine transport and eutrophication - and on how they have succeeded in developing an integrated sea-use management system.
The best grade (an F for just 46 per cent) was received by Germany, followed by Denmark (41 per cent) and the worst were Poland (25 per cent) and Russia (26 per cent).
“It is a shame no country could be given a satisfactory total score,” said Lasse Gustavsson, CEO of WWF Sweden. “The Baltic Sea is influenced by a multitude of human activities, regulated by a patchwork of international and national regulations and authorities.
“What the Baltic Sea needs now is political leadership that can look beyond national or sectoral interests and take an integrated approach to solving the problems.”
Behind the bad overall scores there were some rays of hope. Germany received an A on the biodiversity score for their protection of marine areas with around 40 per cent of the country’s sea areas protected.
Latvia and Lithuania have taken measures to combat illegal fishing of cod, partly by giving inspectors the mandate to impose sanctions on site. Estonia has a narrow lead in lowering the impact of hazardous substances.
Also at the festival WWF awarded Tarja Halonen, president of the Republic of Finland, with the Baltic Sea Leadership Award for “her persistent efforts to unite groups and encourage cross-border discussions on the future of the Baltic Sea”.
Finland is the only country in the region that has developed a cross-sectoral marine policy and several other countries are now taking steps to review their marine management.
“We now have an opportunity in the area of sea-use management with two current processes on the European level,” said Vicki Lee Wallgren, programme manager for WWF’s Baltic Ecoregion Programme.
She said initiatives such as the EU’s Maritime Policy and the EU Baltic Sea Strategy meant that “there is hope for the Baltic Sea”.
The poor state of the Baltic Sea environment has received attention this summer because of the extensive algal blooms caused by eutrophication and for recent scientific reports on the vast “dead zones” on the sea bottom. Seven of the world’s 10 biggest dead zones, where nothing can survive due to lack of oxygen, are found in the Baltic Sea.
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