The Baltic Sea We Want: Mare Nostrum Balticum (Our Baltic Sea)
HELCOM BSAP: Call to Action – statement by NGOs and scientists across the Baltic Sea region.
We, the signing NGOs and scientists, would like to express our concern on the recent developments in the revision of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP). After more than a year of intensive work on revising the BSAP with the goal to reach a healthy Baltic Sea, we note dwindling ambition, target years pushed back as far as possible and a general lack of commitment of the HELCOM Contracting Parties.
The HELCOM Contracting Parties have over the last year revised the BSAP set to be adopted by all Baltic Sea countries and the European Union on the 20 October 2021. The updated plan suggests 200 actions to be rolled out over the course of the next nine years aiming to prevent further deterioration of the Baltic Sea. Certain measurable targets are particularly positive e.g. allocating at least 30% Marine Protected Areas across the Baltic Sea by no later than 2030, including at least a ⅓ to be strictly protected and the national nutrient input ceilings setting clear thresholds to be achieved by individual countries by no later than 2027 to reduce eutrophication.
Yet, apart from these clear commitments, the remaining actions fall short and lack the sense of urgency that is
now essential. Concrete political targets are the only way to shift away from the current trajectory of cumulative, negative impacts from human activities towards actions to improve the Baltic Sea environment.
It is not enough to keep updating BSAP measures to establish and develop guidelines, road maps, evaluate existing programmes and conduct baseline surveys. While these are vital in assessing and addressing pressures, they are not in themselves going to help achieve good environmental status by 2030. Regretfully, despite clear scientific backing, even the ambition set for the desired state of the Baltic Sea in the sea-based segment is underwhelming – calling for ‘minimal’ harm and disturbance to biodiversity, ecosystem and marine life – instead of committing to achieve zero pollution and full recovery of the Baltic Sea ecosystem.
Science has always been the backbone supporting the actions of the Helsinki Convention, driving the joint efforts of all nine Baltic Sea countries towards restoring our sea to a ‘thriving and resilient ecosystem ’1. A number of scientists are raising their voices with deep concern on the dramatic changes of the Baltic Sea ‘2 and the overall ocean ‘3 , which could lead to irreversible consequences for nature and humans. There is no question that a fundamental shift in our relationship and management of the sea is needed. Yet, during the development of the BSAP, much of the relevant scientific advice has not been listened to, and instead measures have been watered down to avoid making the necessary trade-offs between human activities and recovery of nature. By setting precautionary boundaries and highlighting current and emerging challenges, science clearly and undoubtedly demonstrates that human pressure on\ our sea is unsustainable, and that climate change impacts and biodiversity loss are two of the most important risks for human societies.
As highlighted by the recently presented contribution to IPCC Sixth Assessment Report4, climate change will significantly affect marine ecosystems; increasing water temperatures and acidification, as well as decreasing oxygen levels will greatly impact marine life. Therefore, measures to significantly reduce human pressures are vital.
1 Draft updated Baltic Sea Action Plan, Doc 4-1 of HELCOM HODs 60 online meeting 3-4 June, 2021, pg 3 of 45.
2 Reusch , T.B.H., Dierking, J., Andersson, H.C., Bonsdorff, Carstensen, J. et al. 2018. The Baltic Sea as a time machine for the future coastal
ocean, Science Advances, 4(5): 1-16.; HELCOM, 2018: State of the Baltic Sea – Second HELCOM holistic assessment 2011-2016. Baltic Sea
Environment Proceedings. 155.
3 United Nations, 2021: World Ocean Assessment II, & IPBES-IPCC CO-SPONSORED WORKSHOP BIODIVERSITY AND CLIMATE CHANGE
WORKSHOP REPORT, 2021.
4 IPCC, 2021: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S. L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L.
Goldfarb, M. I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T. K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu and B. Zhou (eds.)].
Cambridge University Press. In Press
We call on the Contracting Parties to agree on a 2021 HELCOM BSAP and Ministerial Statement that sets the
political ambition required for the coming 9 years with the following:
● Based on scientific advice, ensure that actions in the revised BSAP allow for the Baltic Sea to become a
thriving and resilient ecosystem, defining the Baltic as a pilot marine region to be fully ecosystem-based
managed, including fisheries.
● Set ambitious yet realistic target years, with the target year 2030 as a deadline for delivering a recovering
Baltic Sea healthy environment and not just for measures to commence.
● Commit to secure financing for the full implementation of the updated BSAP via state budgets and the
● Determine aspiring actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to mitigate and adapt to the
negative impacts that climate change has and will have on the Baltic Sea marine environment.
Aija Caune, Mirosław Proppé,
Chair, Coalition Clean Baltic – CCB Chair of the Steering Group, WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme
Dr. Mats Amundin, Senior advisor, Kolmården Wildlife Park
Associate Professor Lena Bergström, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences – SLU
Associate Professor Ulf Bergström, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences – SLU
Associate Professor Thorsten Blenckner, Stockholm University
Professor Erik Bonsdorff, Environmental and Marine Biology, Åbo Akademi University
Professor, Dr. hab. Juliusz Chojnacki, marine biologist, oceanographer, West-Pomeranian University of Technology
Associate Professor Dr. Aveliina Helm, University of Tartu
Associate Professor, Dr. Jari Hänninen, Archipelago Research Institute, University of Turku
Dr. Mart Jüssi, Independent Researcher
Dr. Tomasz Kijewski, Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences
Dr Kai Künnis-Beres, Head of Marine Ecology Laboratory, Tallinn University of Technology
Professor Dr. Dr.h.c. Karin Lochte, formerly Executive Board of Deutsche Allianz Meeresforschung
Dr. Karl Lundström, Department of Aquatic Resources, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences – SLU
Professor. dr hab. Włodzimierz Meissner, University of Gdańsk
Professor Dr. Christian Möllmann, University of Hamburg
Professor Alf Norkko, Tvärminne Zoological Station, University of Helsinki
Associate Professor Emeritus, Michael Olesen, University of Copenhagen
Adjunct, Dr. Iwona Pawliczka, Head of Hel Marine Station, University of Gdańsk
Dr. Kristjan Piirimäe, Tallinn Technical University
Ivars Putnis, MSc. Fish Resources Dept, BIOR Research Institute of Food Safety, Animal Health and Environment
Dr. Antonia Nyström Sandman, Research Scientist, AquaBiota Water Research
Adjunct Professor, Dr. Eng. Jakub Skorupski, University of Szczecin
Dr. Solvita Strāķe, Senior Researcher, Head of Hydrobiological laboratory, Latvian Institute of Hydroecology
Dr. Josianne Støttrup, Senior Researcher, National Institute of Aquatic Resources, DTU Aqua
Associate Professor Henrik Svedäng, Baltic Sea Center, Stockholm University
Dr. Jon Christian Svendsen, Senior Researcher, National Institute of Aquatic Resources, DTU Aqua
Dr. Marek Szulc, Head of Department of Sea Fisheries, Maritime University of Szczecin
Professor, Dr. Eng. Arkadiusz Tomczak, Master Mariner, Hydrographer Cat. A, Maritime University of Szczecin
Professor Dr. Martin Visbeck, GEOMAR – Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
Dr. Mats Westerbom, Research coordinator, Tvärminne Zoological station, University of Helsinki
Professor Henrik Österblom, Stockholm University
Letter from NGOs and scientists calls for Baltic Sea Ministers political commitment to take action for the Baltic Sea: