State of Baltic Sea has not improved - HELCOM

  • 2023-10-31
  • LETA/BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - According to a report on the assessment of the state of the Baltic Sea published by the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) on Tuesday, the state of the sea has not improved in the last six years.

Stocks showing good status with respect to both fishing pressure and stock size were plaice in the Baltic Sea, herring in the Gulf of Riga and the Gulf of Bothnia, and vendace in the Swedish part of the Bothnian Bay, although the latter two stocks showed a decreasing trend in stock size. While the number of gray seals is increasing, the number of ringed seals is decreasing.

Although more attention is paid to the protection of the Baltic Sea every year, and the international requirements for maintaining the state of the sea are getting stricter, it has not yet brought the expected changes. One of the reasons is definitely the fact that changes in the Baltic Sea take decades, but the continuing impact of human activity on the marine environment is nevertheless decisive.

When assessing the state of the Baltic Sea, the situation of marine habitats, fish stocks, waterbirds and marine mammals was looked at. Eutrophication, the content of hazardous substances, the spread of marine litter, the volume of fishing and the extent of habitat damage in the sea were also measured. In terms of some habitats, assessments show a poor condition in the entire Baltic Sea, especially in the open part of the Baltic Sea, where the lack of oxygen has increased.

The state of coastal fish species has deteriorated compared to the previous evaluation period and in terms of coastal fish, only the Gulf of Bothnia and the Bothnian Sea, the Bornholm Basin and Polish coastal waters are in good condition. Of the 15 economically important fish stocks and nine evaluated species, only the herring in the Gulf of Riga and the Gulf of Bothnia, vendace in the Gulf of Bothnia, and plaice turned out to be in good condition.

Of marine mammals, the number of gray seals is increasing, but the number of ringed seals is decreasing, and the condition of the harbor porpoise has not improved.

Reducing the pollution load and targeted implementation of additional protective measures will help improve the situation. Climate change also plays a role - when the sea water warms, the ice cover decreases and the vegetation starts to grow excessively. However, improving the state of the sea would also help reduce the impact of climate change.

According to the socio-economic assessment carried out as part of the assessment, due to the bad state of the sea, approximately EUR 5.6 billion of economic income is lost in the entire Baltic Sea region annually. This primarily affects tourism and fishing.

Kaupo Laanerand, deputy secretary general for maritime affairs and the aquatic environment at the Estonian Ministry of Climate, said that changes must be vigorously pursued to improve the state of the sea.

"Several innovations are planned in the near future to improve the protection of the Estonian marine environment," he added.

HELCOM regularly assesses the state and situation of the sea and gives recommendations to countries to improve the state of the sea.