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  International co-operation to abate marine eutrofication  

International co-operation to abate marine eutrophication

Eutrophication of the Danish parts of the Wadden Sea, along the west coast of Jutland and in open parts of Kattegat and the Baltic Sea is to a large extent caused by inputs from adjacent waters and to deposition from the atmosphere. The nutrients causing eutrophication originate from discharges, emissions and losses in other areas and are transported to Danish waters where they add to discharges and losses from Danish sources. International co-operation is essential to abate the problem in these areas. The efforts and results due to the Danish Action Plans on the Aquatic Environment, therefore, must be supplemented by parallel activities in neighbouring countries.

A number of international initiatives have been agreed and are likely to reduce the transport of nutrients to Danish waters.
At the North Sea Conference in London in November 1987, the countries of the North Sea adopted the goal of reducing nitrogen and phosphorus inputs by ca. 50% over the period 1985-95 in areas where these inputs are likely, directly or indirectly, to cause pollution. At ministerial conferences in The Hague (1990), Esbjerg (1995) and Bergen (2002), these reduction targets were reiterated and the need to take action against wastewater discharges and losses from agriculture was specified.

In June 1988, the Paris Commission adopted a 50% reduction target for nutrient inputs to marine waters susceptible to eutrophication and also adopted a programme to achieve the reductions. In 1989, the reduction target was specified in relation to specific sectors. In 1992, it was decided to integrate the Oslo and Paris Conventions, both of which aimed to prevent marine pollution from dumping and land-based sources of pollution. The objective of the successor – the OSPAR Convention – is to protect the marine environment of the Northeast Atlantic region. As a follow-up on the 1988 decision, the 1998 OSPAR Ministerial Meeting adopted a strategy to combat eutrophication. Included in the strategy is adoption of achieving a healthy marine environment where eutrophication does not occur by 2010.

At a ministerial meeting in February 1988, HELCOM adopted a declaration specifying a 50% reduction target for discharges of nutrients etc. over a 10-year period. In the Communiqué from the ministerial meeting in 1998, the ministers confirm that they have committed themselves to attaining the strategic goal from 1988 and to defining specific objectives that have to be achieved before the year 2005.

Comparing reduction targets of the Danish action plans with agreed reduction targets in OSPAR and the North Sea Conference, there are some differences. The Danish reduction targets make a total reduction of discharge and losses of nitrogen on the order of 50% and phosphorus on the order of 80% from three sectors, agriculture (only nitrogen), industry, and municipal wastewater plants. The OSPAR and North Sea Conference agreed reduction targets make a total reduction on the order of 50 % of the inputs of both phosphorus and nitrogen into areas where these inputs are likely, directly or indirectly to cause pollution.

Marine monitoring and assessment is another important area of international co-operation.

In connection with adoption of the Action Plan for the Aquatic Environment in 1987, a national monitoring programme was established to demonstrate the effectiveness of measures contained in the plan. The nation-wide programme was revised in 1992 and the latest revision in 1997–1998 resulted in implementation of the Danish Aquatic Monitoring and Assessment Programme 1998–2003 commonly referred to as NOVA–2003.

The monitoring and assessment-programme has been planned and designed on the basis of national and international obligations and the needs agreed by the Danish Parliament, OSPAR and HELCOM. The existing programme implements all national or international agreed monitoring and assessment activities, including parameters, numbers of stations, frequencies, quality assurance, data handling and reporting.

The Danish monitoring cruises are co-ordinated at different levels:

  • Between counties.
  • Between counties and NERI.

  • Between NERI and Swedish, Norwegian and German institutions.

This added value of co-ordination reduces sailing time in many coastal and open waters. The stations sampled and methods are identical to the extent possible and the monitoring frequency of sampling a station are at a level which makes it possible to assess the eutrophication status of marine waters on a year-to-year and in some cases on a season-to-season basis.

The outcome of the Danish monitoring and assessment programme is evaluated and reported annually in the reports "Marine områder xxxx" (in danish - 1997-2002 with english summary). County authorities are responsible for assessment of local areas and, wherever relevant, they include an assessment as to what extent the regional quality objectives for the aquatic environment have been met. Based on the regional reports and information from other national and international monitoring activities, NERI prepares a nation-wide assessment of discharges and environmental state. Oxygen depletion reports (in danish) in August, September and October and crosscutting theme reports supplement the annual assessment. The annual assessment reports are also the basis for the Danish contribution to various international conventions and organisations.

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Danish Environmental Protection Agency & National Environmental Research Institute • updated: