Environmentalists and political leaders from throughout the Baltic region meet today in Helsinki to come up with a plan to rescue the Baltic Sea, one of the most polluted seas in the world.
The Baltic Sea Action Summit is looking for commitments from governments, businesses and industry, and organizations to significantly improve the quality of the brakish waters by 2021.
“Summit participants will commit to actions that best unite their interests with their abilities,”according to a statement from the organizers, the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission. “
The Baltic faces a host of threats from many different sources.
Topping the list is eutrophication and high toxin levels, much of it resulting from activities as different as agricultural activities and heavy shipping traffic.
While some countries have been reducing their use of chemical fertilizers, others have been increasing their use. The result is an increase in the levels of phosphorus, causing a growth increase in algae, which in turn chokes of many other forms of sea life.
Sea traffic has been increasing steadily, and this has caused an increase in pollution as well as the threat of hazardous spills. Currently, 2000 ships use the Baltic regularly. That number is expected to increase to 3,500 over the next decade.
As if that’s not enough, a new report issued on the eve of the summit is showing that the heavy ice cover created by this year’s severe winter has caused a salty, oxygen-free layer in large areas of the sea. This, in turn, will further increase the effects of phosphorous already in the water.
While praising the intentions of the summit, many observers a reserving judgment, waiting to see if anything concrete comes out of it. Some of the early commitments are being called “greenwashing,” or programs that are already taking place.
“We are still waiting for the truly remarkable and important commitments,” said Seppo Knuuttila, a researcher for Finland’s Environmental Administration.