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Eutrophication and marine litter are the worst plague of the Baltic Sea

2017-03-01

Yesterday, in Helsinki, Mindaugas Gudas, Vice-Minister of Environment, and Agnė Kniežaitė-Gofmanė, Director of the Water Department of the Ministry of Environment, together with the representatives from other countries of the Baltic region, namely, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Germany and of the European Commission discussed the most urgent environmental problems of the Baltic Sea. This was the main theme of the 38th annual meeting of the high-level representatives of the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) countries.

The meeting participants exchanged their views on the implementation of the goal included into the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.

According to Vice-Minister Mindaugas Gudas, the worst plague of the Baltic Sea is eutrophication and marine litter. At the meeting, these problems were discussed as the greatest concern which is growing even more complicated due to climate change.

During the meeting, it was emphasised that it is very important to implement the Baltic Sea Action Plan approved by the Helsinki Commission in 2013. It provides that each Baltic State must reduce the discharge of pollutants, namely, nitrogen and phosphorus, into the sea. Lithuania has undertaken to reduce the nitrogen discharge by 19 % (8,970 tonnes), compared to the 1997–2003 level, and the phosphorus discharge by 56 % (1,470 tonnes).

The Baltic Sea is one of the most polluted seas in the world. Due to its condition as a semi-enclosed sea and slow water exchange with the Atlantic Ocean, it takes approximately 30 years for its water to renew. Thus, pollutants remain and accumulate in the sea. This leads to intensive eutrophication – massive blooms of algae, serious oxygen deficiency and reduction of its clarity. One of the main sources of eutrophication not only in Lithuania but also in other countries of the Baltic Region is agriculture. Therefore, in the opinion of the majority of the meeting participants, it is very important to promote environmentally balanced agricultural activity.

Another cause of many serious environmental, economic and health problems is marine litter. In the opinion of the meeting participants, the regional action plan aimed at reducing marine litter is of particular importance. One of the effective measures used to reduce the amount of litter in marine environment is a deposit system for one-way packaging. Although this system has been used in Lithuania for the second year only, it has already proved its effectiveness.

According to Vice-Minister Mindaugas Gudas, sharing of experience and cooperation between the Helsinki Commission members is an effective method by joint efforts to improve the condition of the Baltic Sea.

Communication Division
1 March 2017

Minister of Environment of Lithuania Kęstutis Navickas
Minister of Environment of Lithuania Kęstutis Navickas