GMES and the Protection of European Seas

An international conference on the Baltic Sea and the European Marine Strategy was held in Helsinki on 13 to 15 November 2006 under the auspices of the Finnish Presidency of the Council in order to focus on the need for intensified dialogue between researchers and policy-makers on issues related to the marine environment.
Scientists and policy makers discussed the Directive on marine strategy tabled by the European Commission that defines common principles for the protection of Europe’s seas. In their final declaration, participants called on national, regional and European authorities to set up and implement more environmental policies and legislation using innovative and economic instruments to provide incentives and technical solutions to protect European Seas. GMES, as Environment monitoring system, will be of major support to ensure the marine environmental protection.
From Website Conference: 
The EU’s new strategy on the marine environment and a related draft directive stress the need to apply an “ecosystem approach” to improve the state of the Baltic Sea and Europe’s other troubled seas. Such an approach involves comprehensively examining the impacts of all human activities on marine environments. For this to be done effectively, more must be learnt about complex marine ecosystems and the processes that affect them. A major international conference on the Baltic Sea and the European Marine Strategy, which was opened today in Helsinki by the Finnish Minister of the Environment Jan Erik-Enestam (Opening speech), will focus on the need for intensified dialogue between researchers and policy-makers on issues related to the marine environment.
The proposed marine strategy directive aims to define common principles for the protection of Europe’s seas. The ultimate objective is to ensure that all European seas can be classified as having “good environmental status” by 2021.
“Finland has always stressed the importance of protecting the seas ?± also during our current EU Presidency,” says Enestam. “Our ambitious objective is that a decision will be made on the new marine strategy directive at the December meeting of the EU Environment Council.”
The draft directive aims to intensify the work being done to protect the marine environment, taking advantage of existing tools such as Europe’s various regional marine conventions. The fruits of the work done over the last 30 years under the Helsinki Convention on the protection of the Baltic marine environment, for example, will be comprehensively exploited in the implementation of the new directive.
“Europe’s seas are all unique, and they face different problems. Over-fishing is a serious problem in the Atlantic, while the Mediterranean is particularly threatened by excessive coastal development. Here in the Baltic Sea the greatest problem is eutrophication ?± the consequences of which include toxic algal blooms in the summertime,” says Enestam. “I’m especially worried about the rapidly increasing amounts of oil and chemicals being shipped over the Baltic from Russia. To respond to this threat here in Finland we’ve strengthened our capacity to combat oil pollution in recent years. We also have our own wide-ranging national programme for the protection of the Baltic Sea, which aims to control the factors that endanger the state of the sea.”
The new marine strategy and directive will form the environmental pillar of the EU’s future maritime policy. This common policy aims to maximize the economic benefit obtainable from Europe’s seas. “There is always a risk that economic benefit might be prioritised ahead of environmental issues,” says Enestam. “The marine strategy directive must draw lines that cannot be crossed. It’s important to remember that many livelihoods such as fishing and tourism are dependent on the state of the marine environment.”
The conference is organized by Academy of Finland, Finnish Ministry of the Environment, Finnish Institute of Marine Research, Finnish Environment Institute, Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications, Finnish Ministry of Education, Finnish Ministry of Trade and Industry, Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation, City of Helsinki, HELCOM Baltic Marine Protection Commission
For more information:
Ministerial Councellor
Ulla Kaarikivi-Laine,
tel +358 50 559 9142
Maria Laamanen, senior Adviser,
Ministry of the Environment,
tel. +358 400 285 410
“Cleaning up Europe’s seas” – Facts on environmental issues related to the Finnish Presidency (pdf)
Author: EARSC

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