HELCOM has published the reports for agreed core indicators. The publication is without the precedence to study reserves upheld by Contracting Parties.

HELCOM HOD 39-2012 (paragraph 2.20 of the outcome) agreed on the targets of the eutrophication core indicators.
HELC​OM HOD 41-2013 (paragraph 2.45 of the outcome) agreed on the list of biodiversity- and hazardous substance core indicators.

HELCOM HOD 48-2015 (paragraph 3.63 of the outcome) agreed on the GES-boundaries for nineteen biodiversity and hazardous substance core indicators.​ Germany and Denmark place study reservations on the GES-boundaries. 

HELCOM HOD 49-2015 (paragraph 4.125 of the outcome) welcomed that Denmark is lifting the study reservation on GES boundaries for the core indicators on Abundance of waterbirds in the wintering season, Abundance of waterbirds in the breeding season, Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD), Perfluorooctane sulphonate (PFOS), Polybrominated Diphenyl, Ethers (PBDE), Metals (Cd, Pb, Hg) and Radioactive substances​.

HELCOM HOD 50-2016 (paragraph 4.41 of the outcome) noted that Denmark and Germany are still not in a position to lift their remaining sturdy reservations on the GES boundaries. HOD 50-2016 (paragraph 4.48 of the outcome) agreed on the GES boundaries for the core indicators 'Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and dioxin and furan', 'Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and their metabolites', 'TBT and imposex' and a proposed revision of the GES boundaries for cadmium (Cd) and lead (Pb) in offshore assessment units, noting a general study reservation by Germany, a specific study reservation on Cd and Pb by Poland and Sweden and a study reservation by Denmark on all proposed hazardous substances GES boundaries that are not quality standards derived from EU directives of nationally agreed environmental quality standards.

​​HELCOM core indicators​​​​​

​HELCOM core indicators form the basis for HELCOM environmental assessments as defined in the Monitoring and Assessment Strategy​. The strategy outlines that the core indicators are to be regularly updated by the HELCOM Contracting Parties as core indicator reports to allow for periodical thematic- and holistic assessments.

The goal of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan is to achieve GES by 2021 and the status is to be assessed for a set of ecological objectives. These HELCOM strategic goals and objectives are to a large extent comparable to the descriptors and criteria of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), which stipulates that GES is to be achieved by 2020. HELCOM core indicators are used to follow up on the progress made to reach the goals of both policies.

For assessment purposes, the Baltic Sea is sub-divided into assessment units in the Monitoring and Assessment Strategy Annex 4 (also available through the Map and Data service). In thematic and holistic assessments, the status of individual indicators are aggregated to arrive at the status of an overarching theme, such as biodiversity. The second HELCOM holistic assessment​, which is to be completed by 2018, will build on the core indicators. 

In essence, the role of a core indicator is to regularly synthesise join environmental monitoring data to evaluate the progress made towards reaching the overall goal of the Baltic Sea achieving a good environmental status (GES). 

 Core indicator definition

Core indicators are commonly agreed indicators among the Contracting Parties of the Helsinki Convention. A core indicator measures the progress towards a BSAP objective and/or an MSFD criteria. A core indicator describes a scientifically sound phenomenon and is based on measurements, observations or validated models. Core indicators are Baltic wide whenever ecologically relevant, and the area of applicability is expressed through HELCOM assessment units. 

Core indicators are either state or pressure indicators. Pressure core indicators measure an anthropogenic pressure directly, and also the progress towards an environmental target. State core indicators measure the progress towards a GES-boundary. The environmental target and/or the GES-boundary are described in detail in every operational core indicator, as well as the assessment methods and rationale. State core indicators are indirectly linked to anthropogenic pressures​, and the link is described either qualitatively or quantitatively as appropriate. 

Operational core indicators are to be regularly updated by Contracting Parties through agreed long-term data handling arrangements and the updated result is published on the HELCOM web-page. The aim is that the parameters required for the core indicators are monitored by all Contracting Parties when ecologically relevant, through HELCOM coordinated monitoring that will be described through the HELCOM Monitoring Manual. 

Criteria and guidelines to the development of core indicators have been given in the final report (BSEP 136) of the HELCOM CORESET project.

Criteria: fully operational core indicator


Ongoing work

HELCOM works to further complete the set of available core indicators by developing additional indicators that have been identified as being needed for the environmental assessments. New indicators are first proposed as candidates which after subsequent development and testing can be agreed on as pre-core indicators. ​

Application of indicators is a learning process and may result in the need for adjustments. The process of development of the 2nd HELCOM holistic assessment of the ecosystem health of the Baltic Sea by mid-2017, to be updated in 2018, carried out through the HELCOM HOLAS II project, will provide for an opportunity to test and adjust the indicators, including their GES boundaries. At this time, data may not be available from each Contracting Party for each applicable indicator.”

Definition: Pre-core and candidate core indicators