At a regional level, Sea Alarm aims to facilitate the cooperation between countries to improve marine wildlife emergency preparedness and response. Its first objective is ensure that wildlife responders from different countries know each other and ideally train and conduct exercises together. To this end, one of Sea Alarm’s new activities is to organise regional training events. The first edition of such a regional event took place in 2008 in Helsinki, where wildlife responders and authority representatives from the Baltic Sea trained together over the course of three days.
Integrating wildlife response into existing regional programmes
Ideally, wildlife response forms part of marine emergency planning of individual countries. In addition to its activities at national levels see (National Exchanges), Sea Alarm tries to encourage countries to consider planning for wildlife response at a regional level.
Countries bordering a so called “regional sea” have to deal with the same environmental characteristics of that sea and often share the populations of wildlife that are vulnerable to marine pollution. They are also near to each other and, in the case of Europe, have concluded regional agreements that facilitate mutual assistance to prevent, prepare for, and respond to marine pollution. These regional agreements are the practical elaboration of a global agreement, the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response and Cooperation (OPRC) to which most coastal countries are Contracting Parties.
In Europe different regional conventions arrange for the cooperation between countries that border Europe’s different regional seas:
|Region||Agreement||Technical arrangement for marine pollution response||Status of oiled wildlife response|
|Baltic Sea||Helsinki Convention||HELCOM RESPONSE||Recognised; being implemented|
|Nordic states||Copenhagen Agreement||-|
|North Sea/ North East Atlantic||OSPAR/Bonn Agreement||OTSOPA||Recognised; pending a formal decision on implementation|
|East Atlantic||Lisbon Agreement (pending ratification)||-||No activity|
|Mediterranean Sea||Barcelona Convention||REMPEC||Recognised; implementation is being explored|
|Black Sea||Bucharest Convention||-||No activity|
Sea Alarm has an expanding programme of activity which aims to have wildlife response recognised as an integrated part of the overall pollution response planning and cooperation by Contracting States of these different regional agreements.
Sea Alarm has contributed to the different meetings of the technical groups of some of these agreements:
Under the Helsinki Convention, wildlife response has been recognised and Contracting Parties have agreed to integrate wildlife response into national oil spill response plans. Sea Alarm, together with WWF-Finland, has been instrumental in facilitating these discussions. Sea Alarm is also involved in assisting Estonia, the lead country for these developments, in drafting a proposal for a HELCOM Response work programme in this field.
Sea Alarm has attended several annual OTSOPA meetings to report on its activities and international developments. At the most recent meeting, the Contracting Parties agreed that wildlife response is an important issue, and should be part of the reporting obligations.
Under the Barcelona Agreement, Sea Alarm is in the process of developing a Memorandum of Understanding with REMPEC, which would facilitate Sea Alarm’s advisory role to individual Contracting Parties and its involvement in future wildlife incidents.
Regional sea cooperation exists worldwide. A good guide to forms of regional sea cooperation is provided by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which promotes and facilitates Regional Sea Programmes. Regional cooperation has been set up in many areas of the world, formally agreed by an umbrella agreement, under which so called “Protocols” have been realized for particular issues. Cooperation for marine incident response is often arranged for in a separate protocol.
Although Sea Alarm is a small organisation based in Europe, it is able to provide assistance in other parts of the world to explore possibilities of increasing response capacities at regional levels. As part of Sea Alarm’s cooperation with the oil industry, it is already building a global response capacity with leading wildlife response organisations. Regional capacity building is an important target in that approach.