Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Nutrients to the Baltic Sea are decreasing, HELCOM follow-up shows

How the countries are doing in reaching
their HELCOM nutrient reduction targets was a priority topic of the HELCOM
Pressure group
ending last Friday, as a comprehensive follow-up system for the regional nutrient
reduction scheme is getting ready, based on the most recent data on polluting
nutrient inputs. The assessment of progress in cutting nutrient inputs, and all
related issues, is a key task of the Pressure group. ​​​​The latest data for individual sub-basins of the Baltic Sea is revealed by the recent on the assessment of nitrogen and phosphorus input to the Baltic Sea in 2012. The statistical trend of the overall burden of nitrogen and phosphorus to the Baltic Sea as a whole, indicates decrease with 18% and 23%, respectively, in the past 15 years. However, the situation differs between the sub-basins.  According to the HELCOM nutrient reduction scheme, reductions in inputs of nitrogen were needed to three sub-basins where Maximum Allowable Inputs were exceeded: Baltic Proper, Gulf of Finland and Kattegat. Out of these, only to Kattegat has the nitrogen input been cut sufficiently. However, statistically significant reduction has also been achieved for the Baltic Proper, by almost 55,000 tonnes (average annual input during 2010–2012 compared to the reference period of 1997–2003). No statistically significant reduction, compared to the reference period, can be confirmed for the Gulf of Finland. Reduction requirements were not set for nitrogen inputs to other basins, assuming that inputs were within acceptable maximum allowable input levels. Since adoption of the scheme, inputs of nitrogen have increased to Gulf of Riga and inputs to this basin now exceed maximum allowable levels. For the three sub-basins to which there was a need for reduce phosphorus inputs – Baltic Proper, Gulf of Finland and Gulf of Riga – inputs to none of them have yet measured below the maximum allowable level. The reduction of 20% (3,700 tonnes) and nearly 14% (1,000 tonnes) have been recorded since the reference period in inputs to the first two basins, while there have been no reductions in inputs to the third one.    The Maximum Allowable Input (MAI), a key component of HELCOM nutrient reduction scheme, is the estimated highest amount of nutrient input per year to a given sub-basin, which would still allow for reaching Good Environmental Status in terms of eutrophication.   The assessment results for sub-basins (MAI) have been and work is on-going to finalize an assessment of the progress of individual countries in reaching the country-wise reduction targets (CART). First results indicate that only Denmark has reached their reduction targets for nitrogen to all applicable sub-basin, and no countries have reached their reduction targets for phosphorous to all relevant basins. The assessment towards country-wise reduction targets is far more complex and requires substantial effort to be scientifically evident, as transboundary riverine inputs and retention have to be taken into account.  The draft assessment about the countries’ progress in reducing nutrient inputs, discussed at length by the Meeting, is expected to be published next month. The web presentation of the assessments will continue to be improved thereafter, as part of the overall effort in HELCOM to produce more user-friendly and easier to update reports.  The Pressure group meeting, also addressed another regionally significant matter – underwater noise. As impacts of underwater noise are a new concern, a road map for activities to improve the knowledge base on noise pollution and its consequences on marine life is under preparation.   The meeting also discussed other matters such as the upcoming implementation of the recent HELCOM Recommendation, Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter (36/1), and the urgent need for promoting regionally the sustainable and environmentally friendly practices for handling of sludge, a by-product of waste water treatment processes.  The Pressure group meeting launched a process of data collection in order to compile a regional status report on medical substances in the environment, their sources and pathways. There is no such overview yet for the Baltic Sea region. The compiled information will be the basis for regional discussion on needed measures to prevent or mitigate possible environmental consequences of growing drug consumption in the region. The report is planned to be issued by mid-2016.  The Pressure group meeting was held in Tallinn, Estonia on 6-8 May 2015 and chaired by Lars Sonesten, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences .  All documents are available in the site. * * * Note for editors: The Baltic Sea coastal countries have each committed to annual targets for reducing the polluting nutrients, phosphorus and nitrogen, ending up in the sea. The HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan nutrient reduction scheme, originally from 2007, was reviewed and revised in 2013. The calculations of nutrient inputs to all sub-basins of the Baltic Sea were updated, including the transboundary air and waterborne inputs, allowing for more precise targets per each country. – working group on reduction of pressures from the Baltic Sea catchment area focuses on nutrient and hazardous substance inputs from diffuse sources and point sources on land, including the follow-up of the implementation of the HELCOM nutrient reduction scheme. The group ensures the necessary technical underpinning as well as develops solutions to the policy-relevant questions and needs. Marine litter and underwater noise are also coordinated by this group.The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as , is an intergovernmental organization of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. Since 1974, HELCOM has been the governing body of the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’, more commonly known as the Helsinki Convention.* * * For more information, please contact:Dmitry Frank-Kamenetsky Professional Secretary HELCOM Tel: +358 40 630 9933 Skype: helcom68 E-mail: dmitry.frank-kamenetsky(at)helcom.fiJohanna Laurila Information Secretary HELCOM Tel: +358 40 523 8988 Skype: helcom70 E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)

The overall burden of nitrogen and phosphorus to the Baltic Sea as a whole have decreased with 18% and 23%, respectively, in the past 15 years. However, the situation differs between the sub-basins.