Agriculture Seen as Main Cause of Pollution in Baltic Sea

The Baltic Sea Photo: Postimees/Scanpix
3/10/2011 4:49 PM
Category: Economy

Reducing pollution of the Baltic Sea from agricultural run-off is now a top priority, says Ministry of the Environment advisor Silver Vahtra.

Vahtra, participating at the HELCOM marine environment committee meeting, told from Helsinki that while the Baltic Sea states previously focused on the treatment of waste water from residential and industrial zones, now agriculture tops the agenda. 

Overfertilized fields is a key source of the problem. "It is an important question for the other Baltic Sea states as agriculture pollutes the sea the most," said Vahtra. 

He said Estonia has a maritime policy that covers the period up to 2020, and one of the priorities is reducing the environmental burden on the sea.

Eutrophication is the biggest problem, meaning that too many nutrients lead to algae blooms that cause other, oxygen-requiring species to asphyxiate.

"One of the goals of the development plan is to create a network of people who think alike, which would contribute to improvement of the state of the sea. A goal is also to make the role of humans in impacting the environment as small as possible," said Vahtra.

Due to pollution, fewer spawning areas and habitats for fish remain and the ones that survive have deteriorated, making itself felt keenly in declining whitefish stocks, for instance.

The Baltic Sea is only 53 meters deep on average, making it one of the most shallow seas, and 85 million people live in its drainage basins - which are nearly four times bigger than the sea itself. Rivers replace 2 percent of its water annually, so a significant dent could conceivably be made in the pollution load by addressing run-off.


Kristopher Rikken

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