Baltic Sea Gets Special Protection
One of the world’s most extraordinary seas was finally given the protection it desperately deserves when the International Maritime Organization (IMO) designated the Baltic Sea as a “Particularly Sensitive Sea Area” (PSSA) during its meeting in London on April 2, 2004.
Designating an area as a PSSA requires ships to take special care when navigating through such areas, and enables coastal states and the IMO to agree on the best protective measures. It’s a tool that WWF has long been promoting to protect the Baltic Sea from a major oil accident.
Russia had enlisted the support of Panama and Liberia in an effort to block the proposed designation of the Baltic Sea and two other areas — the Galapagos and the Canary Islands — as PSSAs. Despite this, the PSSA applications for all three areas were accepted by the IMO.
WWF activists played a key role in this success, sending nearly 10,000 emails to urge the United States to support the proposal.
“The enthusiastic response from WWF activists was instrumental in achieving our goals to protect this unique marine environment and its species, such as seals, harbor porpoises, and sea birds from the disastrous effects of oil accidents,” said Päivi Rosqvist, Head of Communications, WWF Finland.
The Baltic is one of the planet’s smallest seas yet one of its busiest in terms of marine traffic, making oil spills a serious threat to this fragile and biologically diverse ecosystem. A major route for migratory birds, the Baltic is also home to marine mammals like grey seals, Baltic ringed seals, and threatened harbor porpoises, and many other creatures. In addition, an oil spill would harm fisheries and tourism, and prohibit the recreational use of the coastal areas for years to come — as occurred with the huge Prestige tanker oil spill off the coast of Spain in 2003.
Designating the Baltic as a PSSA will pave the way for special safety measures to reduce the risk of oil accidents. Moreover, striking a balance between shipping and the protection of the marine environment in the Baltic will contribute to environmentally sound and sustainable maritime transport systems well beyond the Baltic region.
WWF is now encouraging the Baltic Sea states to develop and propose effective associated protective measures to increase the safety of shipping on the Baltic Sea.