Baltic Sea Action Plan overlooks oil pollution
Ministers from Europe’s Baltic countries will today approve an action plan for conservation measures in the Baltic Sea region. Yet conservationists from BirdLife Finland have raised concern that oil pollution –a threat that kills hundreds of thousands of birds each year- has been overlooked.
The HELCOM  Ministerial meeting held today in Krakow (Poland), will work toward a common vision of a healthy Baltic Sea and put in place a set of strategic goals and ecological objectives towards improving the status of this marine environment.
However, BirdLife Finland argue that problems with oil pollution are overlooked in this plan and will not be addressed. So far the countries around the Baltic Sea have failed to get illegal oil discharges under control.
For decades, oil pollution has killed annually between 100,000 and 500,000 waterbirds in the Baltic Sea. Most of the spills are relatively small, but as they occur in all parts of the sea, they are even more disastrous for birds than single tanker accidents.
A small amount of oil is often all it takes for feathers to lose their ‘waterproofing’ capacity, and as a result waterbirds drown or then succumb to what are often freezing conditions. Additionally birds also ingest oil while trying to clean their feathers and are then poisoned.
"...the numbers of oiled birds continues to be very high" —Margus Ellermaa, Conservation Officer of BirdLife Finland
“The countries around the Baltic Sea are ready and prepared to act immediately if a massive oil tanker accident strikes but not for the continuous ‘smaller spills’. Although official statistics indicate some reduction in oil pollution over the last years, the numbers of oiled birds continues to be very high.” said Margus Ellermaa, Conservation Officer of BirdLife Finland.
“Member states of HELCOM have failed to change the situation so far. There seems to be the continuous illusion that there are no problems. Most states in the region do not even have regular monitoring of oil-caused mortality on birds.” added Ellermaa.
Just days ago, over 30,000 birds were killed as oil spilled from a stricken tanker in the northern Black Sea.
 HELCOM is the governing body of the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area" - often referred to as the Helsinki Convention.