Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission


Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Annual Report provides an overview of HELCOM activities in 2022

HELCOM Annual Report 2022 has been published. The report provides a comprehensive overview of our activities, including the achievements and challenges in the 17 different areas HELCOM works on.

In 2022, these included Species and habitats, Spatial conservation and MPAs, Agriculture, Nutrients, Hazardous substances, Marine litter, Dredging and seabed, Underwater noise, Shipping, Response to spills, Submerged hazards, Fisheries, Maritime spatial planning, Climate change, Economy and society, Monitoring and assessment as well as International processes.

The major events of the year for HELCOM included the strategic pause, change of chairmanship, and the preparations for holistic assessments of the state of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS 3).    

“At the beginning of 2022, COVID-19 gradually seemed to abate and, after two years of working in pandemic mode, hopes within HELCOM – as elsewhere – ran high that this might be the first relatively “normal” year since 2019. It was not. Inevitably, the current geopolitical crisis also seriously impacted our organization. However, it did not bring HELCOM to a standstill. Rather, new mechanisms for the work of the Commission were established, enabling continuity of operations.”

Rüdiger Strempel, Executive Secretary of HELCOM

Download the full report here.

Launching the new HELCOM Map and Data Service

The new HELCOM Map and data service (MADS) website is now live. Thanks to the Baltic Data Flows project, the HELCOM MADS has undergone a significant refresh of its user interface and visualization functionalities. Improvements include a modern and responsive user interface along with new widgets such as query layer and export map.

The new HELCOM MADS with improved data layering and viewing functionality.

As with the previous MADS website, datasets are grouped under eight different ‘services’ that can be accessed using the free text search tool or by browsing the services layer tree (shown in the screenshot below). Multiple data layers can be added to the map explorer for conducting unique queries and analyses.

The data is also available in vector and raster formats and accessible as a service (ArcGIS Rest, OGC WMS, WFS). Each dataset is linked to the INSPIRE-compliant HELCOM Metadata catalogue record, where the data can be downloaded. 

The free text search bar and services layer tree navigation tool.

Following the selection of one or multiple datasets, the data is displayed on the map. The ‘map layers info’ box allows the further exploration of data through the selection of widgets, as shown in the screenshot below. In addition, up to 12 background maps can be selected to obtain the most relevant visualization for the user’s needs. Maps generated by users can then be printed or exported in various file formats.

Ideas for improvements were collected via user survey at the start of the project in April 2021. We are now collecting feedback on the new HELCOM MADS website to inform the project KPIs. Please take the survey here and tell us what you think (it will take less than 5 minutes).

Written by Matthew Richard, who is the Project Coordinator for the Baltic Data Flows project. This post was originally published on the Baltic Data Flows project website.

Multiple vacancies open for the PROTECT BALTIC project

We are currently recruiting project staff for an EU-funded PROTECT BALTIC project, a large-scale pan-Baltic project focused on marine protection.

For more information please visit the vacancy page.

Photo by Linda Eller-Shein at Pexels

HELCOM joins the UN 2023 Water Conference and pledges commitments for the Water Action Agenda

This week the UN 2023 Water Conference gathers stakeholders from all sectors in New York to create global momentum to accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: ensuring the sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.  

HELCOM takes part in a side event Source-to-sea collaboration: A game changer for the whole water cycle on Thursday 23 March at 17:00 EST (23:00 EET), when Lotta Ruokanen joins a panel discussion on Preparing the foundations for source-to-sea governance. The side event is livestreamed on UN Web TV.

The main outcome of the conference is the Water Action Agenda, which is a collection of water-related voluntary commitments undertaken by governments, the United Nations system, other intergovernmental organizations, NGOs and civil society organizations, and many other actors to accelerate progress in the second half of the Water Action Decade 2018-2028 and second half of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

HELCOM has pledged three commitments for the Water Action Agenda, including:  

You can browse all commitments here.

Thinking outside the box at the Baltic Stakeholder Conference 2023

This year’s Baltic Stakeholder Conference (BSC2023) was held last week on 9 March 2023, with the aim of harvesting ideas from stakeholders around the sea – and beyond – for accelerating the implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan.

More than 200 participants from the public, the private and nonprofit sectors all sharing an interest in achieving a healthy Baltic Sea registered for the online event.

The programme included presentations and discussions on awareness raising, municipal level implementation, private sector cooperation and financing, encouraging the participants to brainstorm outside-the-box solutions for both long-standing and emerging challenges.

The online event was hosted by Latvia, which currently holds the chairmanship of HELCOM.

All presentations given at the conference as well as the memo including the session summaries are available on the BSC2023 website.

FAQ: HELCOM and the “strategic pause” – what has been going on?

Almost a year ago, on 4 March 2022, a strategic pause of HELCOM was announced. What does that mean in practice?

On 4 March 2022, against the background of the still ongoing geopolitical crisis, the German Chairmanship of HELCOM issued a statement declaring that the European Union and the Contracting Parties to the Helsinki Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area that are Member States of the European Union (H 9) unanimously agreed that they could not currently engage in business as usual with the Russian Federation in the context of HELCOM.

Therefore, the Chairmanship, in agreement with the H 9, suspended all official meetings of HELCOM bodies and meetings of project groups with Russian involvement under the HELCOM umbrella with immediate effect. This concerned all HELCOM Working Groups, Expert Groups, and other subsidiary bodies of the Commission, as well as the HELCOM projects. The meetings were not cancelled, but rather postponed until further notice.

The suspension has been prolonged until further notice under the current Latvian Chairmanship of HELCOM. However, it does not imply that HELCOM as such has ceased operations.

Has HELCOM been doing anything since?

Since the declaration of the strategic pause in March of last year there have been no official meetings of HELCOM bodies, but HELCOM has remained operational and continues to work for the protection of the Baltic Sea environment. HELCOM activities, such as the implementation of the 2021 Baltic Sea Action Plan and the third Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS 3), are on track and envisioned timelines are being observed. There is neither an interruption nor a delay in HELCOM operations.

Is Russia still a part of HELCOM?

Yes, the Helsinki Convention remains in force and Russia is still a Contracting Party to the Convention.

Call for expression of interest: HELCOM Indicator website development

We are looking for a service provider to develop our “HELCOM Indicator website”, an online repository of about 50 individual indicators – fact sheets that provide specific information about the health of and the pressures on the Baltic Sea’s marine environment. 

Interested parties should express their interest by 30 April 2022.

Additional information can be found in the following documents:

HELCOM meetings remain suspended through 30 June 2022

The present Chairmanship of HELCOM, Germany, in agreement with the European Union and Contracting Parties to the Helsinki Convention that are Member States of the European Union, has opted to prolong the suspension of all official HELCOM meetings through 30 June 2022. The suspension was initially announced in a statement issued on 4 March 2022

Official meetings of all HELCOM bodies including the Helsinki Commission, Heads of Delegations, Working Groups, Experts Groups and other subsidiary bodies that were due to take place in the period between March through June 2022 are suspended and will be rescheduled. Participants of these meetings will be informed of any further developments in due course.


Survey: help us to identify what is slowing down the uptake of green technologies and alternative fuels in shipping

If you are or have been dealing with green technologies and alternative fuels in shipping, the HELCOM Green Team needs your help for identifying the main barriers, obstacles and challenges that are hindering their development in the Baltic Sea region. Share your views by 3 May 2022, using our  survey.  

The survey, which has been ongoing since 2018, is part of the HELCOM Green Team reporting mechanism that seeks to gather constant feedback from shipping stakeholders on green technologies and alternative fuels. The results, compiled once a year, are used to facilitate knowledge and information sharing among the private sector, decision makers and the general public, and to promote an early introduction of new technological solutions and alternative fuels.

The results of the 2022 compilation are due to be presented at the next HELCOM Green Team meeting. The outcome of this meeting will then be forwarded to the HELCOM Maritime Working Group with proposals for further action to be taken.

It should take you about 10 minutes to complete the survey. All answers are handled anonymously.

HELCOM meetings suspended through 1 April 2022

In reaction to the current situation in Ukraine, the present Chairmanship of HELCOM, Germany, in agreement with the European Union and Contracting Parties to the Helsinki Convention that are Member States of the European Union, has suspended all meetings of HELCOM bodies and meetings of project groups with Russian involvement under the HELCOM umbrella with immediate effect and through April 1st, 2022.

Read the related statement: