Today, the 31st of October 2023, HELCOM released its new holistic assessment of the state of the Baltic Sea. Every 6th year a new assessment is done, this is the third one called HOLAS 3. It is a massive report comprising five themes into one large holistic assessment: 1) biodiversity, 2) eutrophication, 3) hazardous substances, marine litter, underwater noise and non-indigenous species, 4) spatial pressures and impacts, and 5) economic and social analyses.
Unfortunately, the Baltic Sea environmental condition has made no or very few improvements since the last assessment six years ago. Worth of noting is thought that hazardous substances now are considered the largest threat to the Baltic Sea environment, instead of eutrophication. Also, that it is costly to improve the environmental conditions, but that doing nothing will cost as well in the loss of ecosystem services. A calculation made stipulates a loss of 9 billion euros a year solely for recreation. Unfortunately, these costs usually affect others that those who pollutes.
Some good signs are present though, where lots of efforts have been made. For example, the reduction of nitrogen in the Baltic Sea has dropped by 12 % and phosphorus with 28% in the year 2020 compared to the reference period 1997-2003.
Regarding fish the report states (page 49):
“For fish (Figure 3.8), only four out of fifteen commercial stocks in the Baltic Sea have good status on average during 2016-2021. Compared with the previous assessment period (HELCOM 2018), the status has declined for three stocks, improved for one stock, and remained unchanged for eight stocks assessed in both periods (Figure 3.9a). The integrated status of coastal fish is good in two out of twenty-two assessed coastal areas (Figure 3.9b). For migrating species, salmon (Salmo salar) stocks in the northern Baltic rivers have improved, but their status is far from good in many rivers further south. The European eel (Anguilla anguilla remains critically endangered, and efforts to re-introduce the regionally extinct sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus) are ongoing.”
Source: ELCOM (2023): State of the Baltic Sea. Third HELCOM holistic assessment 2016-2021. Baltic Sea Environment Proceedings n°194.