• The HELCOM State & Conservation group meeting endorses the first HELCOM pharmaceutical indicator for testing

  • Improving the effectiveness of the network of important marine areas in the Baltic Sea tied to global processes and management of human activities

The Seventh Meeting of the HELCOM Working Group on the State of the Environment and Nature Conservation (STATE & CONSERVATION 7-2017) took place in Sopot, Poland 23–27 October. The Working Group is set up to thake a two-pronged approach, linking topics related to monitoring with biodiversity and conservation issues.

The key theme of the meeting was the continuing work to update and further improve the holistic 'State of the Baltic Sea' report. The initial version of the report was published in June 2017 and gives a comprehensive overview of the health of the Baltic Sea, ranging from physical to biological to social and economic aspects. Most of the assessment results in the report are based on indicators, and the meeting agenda included a draft for a new indicator on the drug diclofenac – the first HELCOM indicator for pharmaceuticals. The meeting endorsed the use of this indicator as a pre-core test indicator, meaning it will be included in the updated report using a descriptive approach, as opposed to a quantitative approach based on decided threshold values. The final version of the report, including final results based on 2011–2016 data, will be released in June 2018.

Another step forward was the agreement to focus efforts on further improving the HELCOM Marine Protected Area (MPA) network, specifically the necessity for updating the guidance provided by HELCOM on how MPAs are to be designated and managed. Clearer guidelines are needed in order to better link the MPA network to the planning of human activities at sea (often referred to as Marine Spatial Planning) and to current international commitments, as well as to ensure that the network lives up to its full potential.

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Current network of HELCOM Marine Protected Areas

Parallel to the continued work to improve the effectiveness of the MPA network, the work on marine spatial planning and MPAs will take another major step forward, both in a regional and a global context, at a high-level workshop aimed at describing Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs). EBSAs are special areas in the ocean that serve important purposes to support the healthy functioning and the many services that the sea provides (for more background information, see www.cbd.int/ebsa/about). The designation of EBSAs in the Baltic Sea is an important step in linking the region to the global network of areas already identified under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD). The workshop will take place in Helsinki on 19 to 24 February 2018, hosted by Finland and convened by the Secretariat of the UN CBD in cooperation with HELCOM.

The meeting also updated HELCOM Recommendation 19/3 on 'The Manual for the Marine Monitoring in the Combine Programme of HELCOM' and HELCOM Recommendation 24/10 'Implementation of Integrated Marine and Coastal Management of Human Activities in the Baltic Sea Area', both of which will be submitted to HELCOM Heads of Delegation 53-2017 in December for a decision.

Meeting site. All documents will be public after the meeting.

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Note for editors

The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as HELCOM, is an intergovernmental organization of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. Since 1974, HELCOM has been the governing body of the 'Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area', more commonly known as the Helsinki Convention.

HELCOM State & Conservation group covers the monitoring and assessment functions as well as nature conservation and biodiversity protection in HELCOM. The group works across the monitoring-indicators-assessment chain for the coordinated development of HELCOM thematic assessment tools, as well as for a coherent holistic assessment of the ecosystems health.

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For more information, please contact:

Jannica Haldin
Professional Secretary
HELCOM
Tel. +358 40 485 5905
E-mail: jannica.haldin(at)helcom.fi