The Meeting of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM), which took place in the middle of June in Tallinn, endorsed the Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter in order to reduce marine litter in the Baltic Sea. Every year, several million tons of waste are dumped into water bodies and thus the global surface waters are turning into waste disposal sites.
Harry Liiv, the Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of the Environment and HELCOM Chairman, explained that in addition to the eutrophication, the Baltic Sea is currently endangered by the release of different kind of waste into the sea which in turn damages the health of marine ecosystem. Liiv said that there are regional differences, because on the one hand, microplastic litter, brought along by big rivers, damages the sea and on the other hand, nearly half of marine litter in the Baltic Sea is estimated to originate from household-related waste, while waste generated by recreational or tourism activities would add up to one third.
Liiv noted that it is mostly plastic waste that is found from the sea, but fishing gear, marine life entangled in nets, aquaculture, glass and metal waste, out-of-order waste disposal sites located at the coast and areas of residual pollution also have their role in this.
Liiv emphasized that more attention should be paid to the further development of waste collection system, i.e. waste should not end up in the sea after all. “Cleaning campaigns are just meant for consequence management, but in case of proper waste handling, there will be no need to collect plastic bottles from beach sand,” said Liiv.
The Regional Action Plan that was agreed at the HELCOM Meeting identifies two types of actions: on the one hand, the actions aiming at reducing the land-based waste ending up in the sea and on the other hand, combating the sea-based sources of marine litter, e.g. waste caused by fishing. The Regional Action Plan prescribes also the regional actions, which require a joint approach by HELCOM Contracting Parties, as well as voluntary local activities where the Member States act within the bounds of their possibilities. The joint activities for the next five years were agreed in this Meeting.
Helcom Heads of Delegation Meeting discussed several important topics of the Baltic Sea environment. HELCOM (Helsinki Commission) or the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission manages international cooperation for the protection of marine environment of the Baltic Sea. The purpose of the Helsinki Convention is to protect marine environment against the sources of pollution. The cooperation partners are Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and the European Union. Starting from July 2014, Estonia holds a two-year presidency in HELCOM.