Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Almost four per cent of Baltic Sea species is threatened by regional extinction

​The first complete threat assessment of the Baltic Sea species examines the risk of species and some populations of species becoming regionally extinct. The recently released assessment, focuses on macroscopic species living in the sea or being strongly dependent on it and it was carried out, also for the first time, using internationally agreed and globally applied criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The comprehensive report has been produced by about 80 experts from the Baltic Sea countries within the framework of the .  Reliable knowledge of the Baltic Sea ecosystem is essential when planning sustainable use of the sea space and protecting the marine environment.  The Red List of Baltic Sea species is an invaluable support to these efforts.  HELCOM has agreed to make the Red List assessments of Baltic Sea species, habitats and biotopes a regular activity which will enable the tracking of long-term trends in the status of Sea’s biodiversity. The methods used in previous assessments were different and do not allow for comparison, hence one can’t estimate whether changes have taken place in the total number of threatened species between HELCOM assessments.  The assessment was an important contribution to the , held in October in in Copenhagen, Denmark and it makes proposals for action to protect threatened species. The HELCOM Ministers agreed that by 2015, a new HELCOM Recommendation on conservation plans for species, habitats and biotopes will be developed since existing European nature conservation legislation cover only part of the species listed as threatened in this assessment. Highlights from the report:

– Great majority of the species living in the Baltic Sea
are not threatened by extinction. Out of the about 1750 IUCN-evaluated
species about 1610 were considered to be of Least Concern  Three species are regionally extinct from the Baltic Sea.
They include two fish: American Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus)
and the common skate (Dipturus batis), and one bird, the gull-billed
tern (Gelochelidon nilotica).
– Altogether 4 % of Baltic Sea species, or one in every
twenty-five, are threatened. Approximately 2800 Baltic Sea macro-species
were considered for the assessment and about 1750 (63%) were eventually
evaluated according to the IUCN criteria. – All eight Critically Endangered species are vertebrates.
Among them are European eel, harbour porpoise and wintering populations of
black-throated and red-throated divers (Gavia arctica and G. stellata) – Endangered species numbered 18 and Vulnerable 43.
Among these were 19 birds, ten fish, seven macrophyte plants and 19
invertebrates. Endangered and vulnerable groups included commercially exploited
species such as Atlantic cod, salmon and trout as well as species that are
regularly hunted such as common eider (Somateria mollissima) and velvet
and common scoters (Melanitta fusca and M. nigra) – Large proportion of Baltic Sea species was left out of
the assessment due to lack of data or poor knowledge about them. Although
about 2800 species of macrophytes, benthic invertebrates, fish, birds and
mammals are known to occur in the Baltic Sea it was possible to evaluate only
about 1750 against the red list criteria, leaving out about 820 species due to
poor knowledge and 220 species for other reasons, for example alien origin.
Current monitoring programs miss a large fraction of species. Many species
would also require special expertise for identification – All threatened species are under pressure from human
activities. None of the red-listed species seem to be under a pressure from
a single specific human activity; rather that each species faces a multitude of
pressures. Eutrophication, fishing, construction activities and spreading of
alien species are considered to be most significant past and present threats to
the red-listed species. Climate change is identified as the most increasing
threat  Species Information Sheets complement the report,
containing a wealth of detailed information about each species. They have been
produced for each the red-listed species of , , , breeding and wintering and .  . * * *Note for editors:The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as , is an intergovernmental organisation 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 governed the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’, more commonly known as the Helsinki Convention. * * *For more information, please contact:Ms. Maria LaamanenProfessional SecretaryHELCOM Tel: +358 46 850 9198 Skype: helcom101 E-mail:   Ms. Johanna Laurila Information Secretary HELCOM Tel: +358 40 523 8988 Skype: helcom70 E-mail:

Highlights of the recently released, first complete threat assessment of the Baltic Sea species.