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Oceans and fisheries

29 September 2023

Our Baltic declaration – progress on commitments

On 28 September 2020, at the instigation of Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, the first Our Baltic Conference took place. EU ministers for agriculture, fisheries and environment from all the Baltic States signed a declaration and committed to step up efforts to improve the environmental status of the Baltic Sea, by phasing out marine pollution, promoting sustainable agriculture, and building up a sustainable blue economy. 

The Our Baltic Declaration included 25 commitments addressing the main pressures and their impacts on the Baltic Sea. These commitments cover five thematic objectives:

  1. Implementing the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and supporting the Biodiversity Strategy to reduce pressures and protect the marine environment
  2. Fighting human-induced eutrophication, notably via a switch to more sustainable agriculture
  3. Reducing pollution and contaminants of emerging concern
  4. Delivering sustainable fisheries and aquaculture to protect biodiversity, secure food supplies and avoid the degradation of the marine environment
  5. Securing adequate funding and promoting a sustainable blue economy.

The declaration also contained a list of 20 voluntary measures to be implemented at national, regional or European level.

Overall, implementation of Our Baltic declaration is advancing well. Most of the commitments aimed at improving the status of marine biodiversity and reducing marine pollution are at an advanced level of implementation. However, more efforts are still needed to achieve sustainable fisheries and enhance funding for sustainable blue economy, with several commitments related to these issues still at an early stage of advancement.

See the first progress report on commitments

At the EU Level

Implementation of the commitments is progressing well, thanks to initiatives adopted under the European Green Deal. These include:

Implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the common fisheries policy and the recently adopted marine action plan are also having a beneficial effect to reduce pressures from marine litter, underwater noise and seabed loss and avoid degradation of the marine environment, notably by setting new limits in those areas.

See the EU implementation monitoring table

At the regional level

The updated Baltic Sea action plan of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM)  at the ministerial meeting of the Helsinki Convention in October 2021 is helping advance several commitments included in the Our Baltic Declaration in a coordinated way.

The plan directly addresses issues such as pollution from nutrients, hazardous substances, marine litter, submerged objects, and the completion of marine protected areas.

It contains concrete measures and actions to be implemented by 2030 at the latest, with the possibility to track the implementation status of actions agreed upon.  The third Holistic Report on the State of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS 3 report) of HELCOM also helps to assess how the state of the Baltic Sea has improved in comparison to 2018, when the previous report was published.

See the Helcom implementation monitoring table

At the national level

Member States have complemented the EU and regional efforts with several national initiatives aimed at implementing the Our Baltic commitments by reducing nutrient losses, plastics and chemical pollution.

Many efforts have also been made to safeguard biodiversity, notably by enhancing the designation of nationally protected areas in the Baltic Sea area.

See the National implementation monitoring tables:

Baltic Sea environmental status

Despite this multitude of measures, the Baltic Sea has not yet reached good environmental status.

Persistent negative trends threaten populations, habitats and the functioning of the ecosystem. whereas pressures from hazardous substances, eutrophication and fishing, remain at high level.

While this may be partly explained by the time required for the effects of the initiatives to be measured, it also indicates the need for further efforts from all actors across the Baltic Sea including at EU and regional level.