Introduction to the research project

The research comprises investigation of Swedish, Danish, Estonian, and Polish law, and comparative study of approaches and regulatory means for controlling nutrient emissions – specifically from agriculture and sewerage – in order to avoid eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. In the search for effective marine ecosystem management approaches that are sensitive and adaptive to relevant ecological functions and changes, it is important to learn from the collected experiences from eutrophication control. The aim is that comparative study of differences and similarities in national legal approaches will enrich our understanding of the legal system and provide new insights and ideas of how to improve the quality of relevant regulation. The project is due to be reported in 2014. Moreover, the SMC will host a symposium on Baltic Sea Environment and Ecosystem Adaptive Management in 7-8 October 2014.

Analysing ecosystem adaptive management

The project takes its departure in ecosystem adaptive management theory. The legal order as a social structure for governance, realizing and supporting ecosystem management, should be sensitive and continuously adaptive to relevant ecological functions and change of status. This perspective is also reflected in more recent international and regional law and policy, centrally under HELCOM and EU-law on water and marine environment. Under these legal strategies, environmental standards and levels of nutrient pollution input, and their reduction, have been or shall be formulated. The different countries implement national programmes, and specific measures to control the inputs from important sources of pollution. The management strategies and regulatory control of the actual input of nutrients vary in the different legal orders, thus taking different approaches to managing the same resources and abating a common problem. These different regulatory approaches are compared in the research project, and their ecosystem approach analysed.

The study will relate to the countries’ duties under international and EU law as well as the common regional strategies. The study has been limited to the regulation of water pollution, and focus on two main sources of nutrient pollution input: sewerage and agriculture.