Action to save Baltic Sea is lagging: WWF

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The Independent Online

Action to save the Baltic Sea is lagging far behind schedule, environmental group WWF said Wednesday, a day before regional ministers are to meet on the protection of the highly polluted sea in Moscow.

"Efforts by coastal states to implement the common programme of action for the Baltic Sea are well behind schedule and schedules are being pushed further forward," WWF said in a statement, citing a monitoring report it commissioned from Gaia Consulting.

Even simple measures, like replacing phosphates in detergents with other, harmless components to prevent the hazardous overconcentration of nutrients had been pushed back in most of the countries surrounding the Baltic, WWF said.

Eutrophication, or the overconcentration of nutrients caused by sewage and agricultural run-off into the water, is seen as one of the biggest environmental problems for the shallow, semi-enclosed and brackish Baltic Sea.

The environment ministers of countries surrounding it - Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia - are due to meet in Moscow on Thursday to discuss the current state of the ailing sea and efforts to restore its ecological status.

In 2007, the countries committed to the Baltic Sea Action Plan of measures aimed at protecting and restoring it to good status by 2021, and in February regional leaders pledged action, but WWF said many of the efforts were delayed.

"The strength and the idea of the Action Plan is that the same Baltic Sea protection measures are implemented in all coastal states simultaneously to generate a significant combined impact," Sampsa Vilhunen, head of WWF Finland's marine programme said in the statement.

"However, it looks like the programme is being implemented in a fragmented way and action is marked by the principle of the lowest common denominator: when one party stalls, the whole effort is easily slowed down," he said.

For example, while more than 10 percent of the Baltic Sea is already considered a marine protection area, the protected areas do not yet form a unified conservation network, according to the report.

WWF said the time for rhetoric was over and urged ministers in Moscow to outline new, concrete actions to save the Baltic.

The WWF report, "Analysis of the status of implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan for WWF", can be found at http://www.wwf.fi/wwf/www/uploads/pdf/wwf_bsap_implementation_analysis_17052010.final.pdf

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