Dear Commissioner

Congratulations on the new assignment. You now have a unique opportunity to change the Baltic Sea environment for the better.

The Baltic Sea is a unique but also very sensitive marine ecosystem. For more than a century it has been under tremendous stress from human activities. We now pay a heavy price for this, in the form of algal blooms, decreasing fish stocks and other symptoms.

In 2009, the European union strategy for the Baltic Sea region (EUSBSR) became the first comprehensive EU strategy to target a specific macro-region, and is now closely knit to the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) and other regional and national initiatives. It’s important that the EU Commission maintain its key role in this process.

You will of course not be able to solve all the environmental problems of the Baltic Sea during your term of office. The marine ecosystem recovers slowly.

But it does recover – if we let it.

Each and every measure, each concrete action, is of great importance. The decisions you and your colleagues make now, will determine in what state the Baltic Sea is, when we pass it over to our children and grandchildren.

We would like to help you in this endeavour. From the Baltic Eye perspective, here are some important issues concerning the Baltic Sea, that we want to bring to your attention.

Sincerely, Baltic Eye

Brev till ministrar

Fish and fisheries    

Cod, herring and sprat are the three main commercial fish stocks of the Baltic Sea. Scientific studies show that Baltic fish stocks can increase rapidly if good environmental conditions for fish reproduction are combined with sustainable fisheries.

The Baltic cod stock structure has changed dramatically, with huge over-representation of small cod and very few big individuals.

Baltic Eye recommends

  • The recent changes in the cod stocks and the uncertainties in data and models for assessment calls for a precautionary approach. Catch limits and management should follow scientific advice.
  • If the implementation of next years landing obligation is to be successful, it must be properly monitored and controlled.
  • All goals implemented within the multispecies plan, to improve fisheries management, should prioritize long-term solutions and a healthy ecosystem before short-term maximized catch volumes.
  • The over all fisheries management and advice system must take in to account environmental changes and adapt a more integrated ecosystem approach.

Eutrophication                      

Eutrophication is the single-most severe problem for the Baltic Sea environment, causing increased algal blooms and expanding dead zones. The total area of dead zones in the Baltic Sea has grown from 5 000 to 60 000 square kilometres during the past century.

A number of policies have been implemented, including BSAP, the Urban Wastewater Treatment, Nitrates and Water Framework Directive. Point nutrient sources from industry and households has been successfully reduced. There is still much work left to be done regarding leaks from septic systems and agricultural lands.

Baltic Eye recommends

  • Increased efforts to reach individual farmers and provide farm-specific advice on sustainable practices, for example through national networks of agricultural advisors.
  • A joint effort by the HELCOM countries to develop specific and binding actions for achieving the nutrient reduction targets set in the BSAP.
  • Increased recycling an a more efficient use of nutrients in animal manure and sewage.
  • Greater consideration of water quality concerns whitin the Common Agricultural Policy.

Contaminants    

The chemical industry is growing rapidly. Daily, new chemicals are added to the millions already in use. They are included in plastics, children’s toys, furniture, clothes, electronic devices and such. Many of these contaminants are harmful to people and the environment, and a significant part end up in the water, sediment and animals of the seas.

There’s a growing concern in the EU and worldwide about negative health and environmental impacts caused by endocrine disruptors. The EU Commissions proposal for science-based criteria for endocrine disruptors has been extremely delayed. This delay poses a serious risk for humans and animals.

Baltic Eye recommends

  • Avoid replacing banned chemicals with substances whose environmental risks are unknown.
  • Seriously consider introducing a ban on cosmetic products containing micro-plastic particles.
  • The interaction of several different chemicals (mixture), and their potential ”cocktail effects” on the environment must be considered in chemical authorization and legislation.
  • Link the different EU legislations on chemicals (REACH, Biocidal Products Regulation) and environmental directives (WFD, MSFD) more closely to each other.

Marine protected areas    

Conservation of the biological diversity is crucial for sustainable use of the sea. It’s highly worrying that biodiversity in coastal areas and open seas is still negatively effected by human activities. The habitats directive, Natura 2000, is a powerful tool for protecting biodiversity in the Baltic Sea region.

Many protected areas in the Baltic are poorly managed. According to the HELCOM ”Overview of the status of the network of Baltic Sea marine protected areas” (2013), shipping and navigation, harvesting, fishing and land-based activities are the most important activities still not regulated within protected areas in the Baltic Sea region.

Baltic Eye recommends

  • Make sure that the protection of marine areas becomes a central part of the long-term maritime plans of every Baltic state, and establish a cross-border coordination of political efforts.
  • Integrate environmental issues better with fisheries management.
  • Stronger considerations of habitat protection in fisheries management. The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) refers to MSFD in article 11, stressing the protection of the marine environment.
  • Further develop the use of scientific knowledge and analysed data, through for instance mapping, as crucial tools for effective planning and management of marine protected areas.

Baltic Eye is a new form om scientific think-tank at Baltic Sea Centre, Stockholm university. Through Baltic Eye, scientists and communicators collaborate to develop and spread knowledge, contributing to a healthier Baltic Sea.

Baltic Eye work in favor of science-based decisions and measures, aimed at improving the Baltic Sea environment.

Contact: Helena Markstedt, Head of Communications, Baltic Eye
Phone: +46-8-16 27 01
E-mail: helena.markstedt@su.se
www.su.se/ostersjocentrum/baltic-eye