Preventing degradation of the marine environment, reducing pollution and restoring ecosystems are part of the activities indicated in the update of the Marine Waters Protection Program (aPOWM), developed by Polish Waters. It will be accompanied by an environmental impact assessment and public consultation. Sea transport, fishing, tourism – these are some sectors dependent on the Baltic Sea, the presence and development of which will not be possible without proper protection.

The Baltic Sea is one of the shallowest and most polluted seas in the world. The key threats to its ecosystem are progressive eutrophication, intensive fishing and pollution of the marine environment. In 1997, the Helsinki Commission established March 22 as the World Day for the Protection of the Baltic Sea in order to draw the attention of the international community to the need to take immediate action to improve its condition.

Bloom of cyanobacteria in the Bay of Gdańsk (15 July). © ESA / Copernicus

Protection of sea waters involves not only activities planned on the coast or the open sea, but primarily the rational management of waters throughout our country. Activities undertaken by agriculture and water and sewage management are of key importance in this respect, but each of us takes part in the protection of the Baltic Sea, also through the conscious selection of fish for the dinner table or reducing the consumption of plastic in the household. A large amount of pollutants end up in the sea through our rivers, so let’s remember that by taking care of the rivers, we also protect the Baltic Sea – said Paweł Rusiecki – Deputy President for Water Environment Management in Polish Waters.

The Framework Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council 2008/56 / EC, known as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, sets the framework for the integrated approach of the Member States to the protection of marine waters. Its aim is to preserve the good environmental condition of Europe’s seas, maintain their resources and ensure the use of maritime services. Poland implements EU regulations mainly through the provisions of the Water Law Act. The marine strategy consists of the preparation of a preliminary assessment of the environmental status of marine waters, setting environmental objectives and related features for them, determining the properties typical for good environmental status of marine waters, and the preparation and implementation of a monitoring and protection program.

As part of the marine strategy, the State Water Holding Polish Waters sets environmental objectives for marine waters and prepares a draft program for their protection. Currently, the second planning cycle is underway, under which the methodology for the development of the program was prepared along with the analysis of gaps: in activities preventing the achievement of environmental objectives and in knowledge about the condition of the marine environment, preventing or hindering proper planning and monitoring of activities. The works entered the second, key stage, the result of which will be the selection of activities necessary to achieve or maintain good status of sea waters, e.g. identifying water pollutants and restoring or improving the condition of marine ecosystems.

The condition of the Baltic Sea is influenced by activities carried out in almost the entire country, as 99.7% of Poland’s territory lies in the Baltic Sea catchment area. Therefore, the proposed solutions will apply not only to the coastal area, but also to the entire country, including, among others, agriculture sector or water and sewage management. They will be subject to a cost-benefit analysis and a strategic environmental impact assessment, as well as a 3-month public consultation, after which a draft update of the Marine Waters Protection Program (aPOWM) will be prepared for adoption by the Council of Ministers and a report for the European Commission will be prepared in the first quarter of 2022.

The Baltic Sea (Pomeranian Bay, Bornholm, Rügen) as seen from the Landsat 8 satellite, July 26, 2019 © NASA / USGS
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