TED Case Studies
Baltic Sea Pollution
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CASE NUMBER: 218
CASE MNEMONIC: BALTIC
CASE NAME: Baltic Sea Pollution
1. The Issue
The health of the Baltic Sea has been seriously damaged
since the 1960s due to excessive pollution from the countries in
its catchment area. The pollution, such as untreated human
waste, toxic materials, and metal (e.g. lead), have resulted in
stratification of the Baltic Sea. This process known as
stratification has left certain layers of the Baltic mostly
freshwater while rendering other layers saltwater. The Baltic
Sea, when it is stable, is a mix of freshwater from the rivers of
Europe, and saltwater from the North Sea which flows through the
straits around Denmark. The source of much of the pollution was,
and still is, from the countries of the former Soviet Union and
East Bloc. This pollution, in turn, harms a variety of other
industries, including fishing and tourism.
Because of unrestricted and (environmentally) unregulated
industry, factory waste was disposed directly into the Baltic Sea
or into rivers which fed the Baltic. A second problem is
agricultural run-off, all from western European countries. These
chemicals run off land and into the water supply, eventually
ending up in the Baltic Sea. With the fall of the communist
states, central and eastern Europe the issue is now to move
towards a collective plan to clean-up the Baltic (see BLACKSEA
case). Many positive steps are being taken by the countries
which either border on the sea, or are in its catchment area.
The most significant of these steps is the Baltic Sea Joint
Comprehensive Environment Action Program, which will be described
in more detail in the next section. The countries directly
effected are the nine which line the Baltic coast: Sweden,
Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Poland, Germany, and
Denmark. The catchment area includes Norway, Belarus, Ukraine,
the Czech Republic, and the Slovak Republic (see KRAKOW and
"[T]he Baltic Sea's rich biodiversity is threatened by
environmental pollution that could cause irreversible damage to
a sea that is an important source of economic and recreation for
more than 80 million people who live along its coast and within
its catchment area. The sea is very important to the tourism
and fishing industries of the Baltic countries. Species of fish
such as herring, sprat, and cod are affected by pollution from
urban areas, industries, and agriculture (fertilizers). The goal
of the Baltic nations is to reduce the amount of pollution which
reaches the Baltic Sea in order to preserve the precious fishing
and tourism trade in each country.
The Baltics have agreed on a Baltic Sea Joint Comprehensive
Environmental Action Program. It was approved by the Diplomatic
Conference of Ministers of the Environment in Helsinki, Finland
in April, 1992.
The program has six components.
1. "[A] set of policy, legal, and regulatory reforms
that establish a long-term environmental management
framework in each country."
2. "[I]nstitutional strengthening and human resource
3. "[A] program for infrastructure investment in
specific measures to control point and nonpoint sources
of pollution and to minimize and dispose of wastes."
4. "[T]o aid in the management of coastal lagoons and
5. "[S]upporting applied research to build the
knowledge base needed to develop solutions, transfer
technology, and broaden understanding of critical
6. "[W]ill encourage public awareness and
environmental education to develop a broad and
sustainable base of support for implementation of the
The Baltic Sea, the largest body of brackish water (brackish
water is slightly salty water) on Earth, was considered healthy
as late as the 1950s. Since then, the Baltic's health has
seriously deteriorated due to waste from expanding industry and
large urban areas, fertilizers used in agriculture, and the
development of wetland areas. The fishing and recreation
industries have already been affected by the pollution in the
Baltic, and action was needed to prevent permanent damage.
Recent steps to clean up the Baltic have been made possible
with the end of the East-West divide. The 14 countries of the
catchment area are now on schedule to carry out a comprehensive
program to improve the environment in and around the Baltic Sea.
The Baltic is important to these countries for many reasons.
Economically, the Baltic is a vacation area for many
Europeans. This provides service jobs in tourism and recreation.
"The coastal areas also serve as spawning, nursery, and feeding
grounds for several species of marine and freshwater fish."
Some of the species effected are mentioned above. "The value of
the catches, which amounts today to about 540 million European
currency units (ECU) per year, is an indication of the
considerable economic importance of the Baltic fishery."
3. Related Cases
(1): Trade Product = FISH
(2): Bio-geography = OCEAN
(3): Environmental Problem = Pollution Sea [POLS]
4. Draft Author: Scott A. Kocher
B. Legal Clusters
5. Discourse and Status: AGReement and COMPlete
The Baltic Sea Joint Comprehensive Environmental Action
Program (BSJCEAP) program was the result of a study by a Helsinki
Commission (HELCOM) high-level task force (HLTF) from 1990-1992.
The task forces included the 9 countries which border the Baltic,
the 5 countries in the catchment area, the Commission of the EC,
and 4 international financial institutions (IMF, EBRD, Nordic
Investment Bank, and World Bank). The BSJCEAP was approved in
6. Forum and Scope: HELCOM REGIONal
The BSJCEAP was developed under the auspices of the Helsinki
Commission from 1990-1992. The Helsinki Commission is a regional
7. Decision Breadth: 14 (European Countries)
The 14 countries in the Baltic Sea catchment area: Sweden,
Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Poland, Germany,
Norway, Belarus, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Ukraine and
Denmark. All of the above named countries are supposed to abide
by the decisions stated in the BSJCEAP.
8. Legal Standing: TREATY
The Baltic Sea Joint Comprehensive Environmental Action
Program is not technically a treaty, it is however a joint
understanding among its adherents.
C. GEOGRAPHIC Clusters
9. Geographic Locations
a. Geographic Domain : EUROPE
b. Geographic Site : Northern Europe [NEUR]
c. Geographic Impact : BALTIC Sea
More specifically, the actual problem conflict between
trade and the environment is occurring in northern Europe, in the
Baltic Sea and its catchment area.
10. Sub-National Factors: YES
Although the Baltic Sea Joint Environmental Action Program
was completed by national governments its effects will trickle
down to the local level. The program is promote research, and
environmental awareness and education. Also, funds will be
allocated to improve standards, safely dispose of waste, and
conserve wetlands. Furthermore, in September, 1991
representatives from 32 Baltic towns and cities met in Gdansk,
Poland to form the Union of the Baltic Cities. It will address
political and economic questions which will have an effect on
improving the environment of the Baltic Sea. "The goals of the
Union of the Baltic Cities are far-reaching and include cultural
awareness, improved transportation and telecommunications, and
Clearly, not all of the work will be done on the national
level: "Although much of the policymaking necessary to restore
the Baltic is the responsibility of officials at the national and
international levels, such matters as improved sewage treatment,
district heating systems, and handling of refuse are usually
dealt with by individual cities." Sub-national factors in the
Baltic Sea will definitely have an impact on the environment
improvement of the area and on promoting trade.
11. Type of Habitat: OCEAN
D. TRADE Clusters
12. Type of Measure: Regulatory standards [REGSTD]
13. Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: INDirect
14. Relation of Measure to Environmental Impact
a. Directly Related : NO
b. Indirectly Related : YES FISH
c. Not Related: : NO
d. Process Related : NO Pollution Sea [POLS]
15. Trade Product Identification: FISH
16. Economic Data
17. Impact of Measure on Trade Competitiveness: MEDium
18. Industry Sector: FOOD
19. Exporter and Importer: MANY and MANY
E. ENVIRONMENT Clusters
20. Environmental Problem Type: Sea Pollution [POLS]
The waste includes industrial emissions, agricultural runoff
(fertilizers), urban pollution, untreated sewage, wastewater from
pulp-and-paper and other industries, toxic substances and heavy
metals. Many different species are threatened in the Baltic
Sea, but the most often mentioned are herring, salmon, and cod
(see UKCOD case).
21. Name, Type, and Diversity of Species
22. Resource Impact and Effect: MEDium and SCALE
While the threat to the Baltic Sea is very serious, it
appears that the problem has been realized in time to prevent an
environmental disaster. Now that the countries which surround
the Baltic (and contribute water to it) realize there is a
problem and are doing something about. One note of caution about
being overly optimistic on the program to clean-up the Baltic
working should be offered. If the economies of the former Soviet
republics and the former East Bloc begin to have greater economic
difficulties, then they will be less inclined to follow
23. Urgency and Lifetime: MEDium and 100s of years
24. Substitutes: Biodegradable [BIODG] products
F. OTHER Factors
25. Culture: NO
However, the countries which are involved in this case are
either industrialized or on the road to being industrialized.
This "industrial culture" which is prevalent in these countries
contributes to the pollution in the Baltic. The fish, which are
part of the trade aspect of this case, are part of the diet of
the people from the Baltic Sea countries and the countries they
export the fish to. This too is culture through dietary
26. Trans-Border: Yes
The Baltic Sea is shared by nine different countries. The
sea is a resource and a vacation spot for many, and is a part of
their collective heritage.
27. Rights: NO
28. Relevant Literature
"Baltic Blues," The Warsaw Voice, 4 July 1993.
"Baltic Countries: The GFP Vision," The Warsaw Voice,
January 9, 1994.
"Cleaning Up After the Party," Financial Times,
22 September 1993, 22.
"EC: The Helsinki Convention 1992 -- Improving the Baltic
Sea Environment," Reuter Textline, July 23, 1993.
"Ecofund to Finance New Projects," Business News From Poland,
October 15, 1993.
"Estonia Agreement with Finland on Environmental Cooperation,"
Summary of World Broadcasts, 16 July 1993.
"Finns, Estonians Want to Clean Up Baltic Sea," Reuter Library
Report, July 2, 1993.
Kindler, Janusz, and Lintner, Stephen F. "An Action Plan to
Clean Up the Baltic." Environment, October 1993.
Joenniemi, Pertti. "Cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region."
Washington: Taylor & Francis, 1993.
"Official Analysis Belarussian Ecological Situation,"
BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, January 28, 1994.
"Poland Unequalled in Baltic Pollution," Polish News Bulletin, 26
"Polish Ecological Contrasts," Polish News Bulletin,
December 3, 1993.
"Pollution Threatens All Baltic Salmon," Chicago Tribune,
September 2, 1993, 11.
"Swedes Cooperate in Protection of Polish Environment,"
PAP News Wire, September 24, 1993.
"Uranium Dump Perils Estonia Sea," Chicago Tribune,
23 May 1993, 20.
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