Commission research helps reveal causes of oxygen depletion in Western Baltic Sea

September 22, 2003

Brussels, 19 Sep 2003

Research carried out by the European Commission has provided valuable input to a report published by the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), which reveals that exceptional oxygen depletion in the Western Baltic sea was the result of extreme weather conditions and the increased run off of nutrients into the sea from man made sources.

Severe oxygen deficiency was recorded in the Western Baltic in the summer and autumn of 2002, leading to hundreds of dead fish being washed up on the Jutland coast in Denmark. The dramatic loss of marine wildlife let to the establishment of an expert group, which brought together scientists from Denmark, Germany, Sweden and the Commission.

Their analysis revealed that heavy rain and snow had led to higher levels of nutrients from agriculture, urban waste water and air pollution being washed into the sea. In addition, low winds and high air pressure minimised vital oxygen exchanges between different water levels in the Baltic.

EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin reacted to the findings by saying: 'We must do more to reduce the level of man made nutrients polluting the Baltic Sea and the destruction of its precious ecology. We cannot ignore nature's alarm calls, and must ensure that our research findings help shape appropriate international policies.'

A draft version of the report was used as the basis for a HELCOM ministerial meeting in June, at which the Commission was represented by Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström. The ministers agreed on a range of measures to protect the Baltic from further pollution by nutrients, including a more sustainable approach to agriculture, full implementation of EU directives on nitrates and urban waste water, and the reduction of nutrient pollution from other sources.

For further information, please consult the following web address: 3_hav/oxdep2002/default.asp

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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