Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

 

Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Riga Ministerial Meeting bolsters commitments for the Baltic Sea marine environment

Joint press release by HELCOM and the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia

​On 25 April 2024, ministers and high-level representatives of Baltic Sea coastal states and the European Union will gather in Riga, Latvia at a joint meeting within the Latvian Chairmanship of HELCOM, for the 2024 Ministerial Meeting on the Baltic Sea Marine Environment. They will discuss the way forward in protecting the Baltic Sea marine environment.

Emphasizing the current state of the Baltic Sea, the discussions will focus on leveraging the results of the latest HELCOM holistic assessment of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS 3) to further strengthen the scientific basis for determining key priorities and shaping the trajectory of future work.

“This ministerial meeting is the culmination of Latvia’s two-year chairmanship of HELCOM. It has been an eventful and challenging period shaped by the current geopolitical landscape,” says Inga Bērziņa, Minister for Environmental Protection and Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia. “However, even in this tense period, we have been able to achieve the objectives of the Latvian Presidency, which are aimed at improving the state of the Baltic Sea environment,” she continues. Latvia currently holds the rotating Chairmanship of HELCOM and is the proud host of the 2024 Ministerial Meeting on the Baltic Sea Marine Environment, as well as HELCOM’s 50th anniversary event, which will also take place in Riga on 25 April 2024.

“Our primary goals during this Chairmanship have been to reinforce HELCOM’s position as an effective and well-functioning regional organization for regional cooperation even in unforeseen or force majeure situations, to implement the 2021 Baltic Sea Action Plan and to strengthen the role of regional cooperation in international ocean governance. I am gratified to note that we have met these objectives, with HELCOM continuing to fulfill its role as the key player in regional environmental cooperation and notable progress in the ongoing implementation of the Action Plan,” says Evija Šmite, the HELCOM Chair.

This spring’s Ministerial Meeting will chart the course for HELCOM work over the next three years. “The main findings of HOLAS 3, summarized in the State of the Baltic Sea 2023 report, will impact the implementation of the 2021 Baltic Sea Action Plan. They will inform the decisions of Contracting Parties in implementing the Plan and help shape the policies of our organization as we progress towards the Plan’s target year of 2030, says Rüdiger Strempel, HELCOM Executive Secretary.

The Meeting is expected to adopt a  Ministerial Declaration reflecting the priorities and ambitions of HELCOM in working towards a healthier marine environment for the Baltic Sea, in line with the longstanding tradition of regional cooperation upheld by the organization.

The celebratory session of the 50th anniversary of the Helsinki Convention can be watched live if you register in advance. Apply by April 23 at this link.


About HELCOM

The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as the Helsinki Commission or HELCOM, is an intergovernmental organization of the Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union. HELCOM has worked since 1974 to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region.

HELCOM is the governing body of the “Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area,” more usually known as the Helsinki Convention.

The Helsinki Commission’s member states are the contracting parties to the Helsinki Convention: Denmark, Estonia, the European Union, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden and Russia. Due to the current geopolitical situation, the EU and the Contracting Parties to HELCOM that are also member states of the EU (H9) have, however imposed a “strategic pause” in HELCOM operations. This pause entails the postponement of the meetings of all official HELCOM bodies, with meetings being carried out as so-called informal consultation sessions involving H 9 participants only and Russian involvement restricted to correspondence procedures.


About Ministerial Meetings

Every three years, HELCOM arranges a Ministerial Meeting, gathering ministers responsible for environmental or maritime affairs from the Baltic Sea countries and the EU Commissioner for the Environment. These Meetings serve as crucial forums for engaging in shared discussions and reaching agreements at a high political level. They further reinforce HELCOM’s objectives in protecting the Baltic marine environment.

Ministerial meetings result in the adoption of political declarations, through which Contracting Parties commit to taking further actions to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea and agree on the future agenda for HELCOM. The declarations complement the Helsinki Convention and HELCOM Recommendations.


About HELCOM Holistic Assessments

HELCOM carries out holistic assessments every six years. They focus on how the Baltic Sea ecosystem is doing and, importantly, on following up on how well the agreements – namely, the measures set in the 2021 HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) – are functioning. The holistic assessments cover ‘moments’ in time over the dynamic life history of the Baltic Sea.

The third HELCOM holistic assessment (HOLAS 3) focuses on the years 2016-2021 and includes results at various levels of detail, including monitoring data, indicator reports and thematic assessments.


Contact

Johanna Laurila
Communications Advisor, HELCOM
johanna.laurila@helcom.fi
+358 40 647 3996

Communication division
Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia  
+371 20 200 305
prese@varam.gov.lv
www.varam.gov.lv

HELCOM’s 50th anniversary: stellar lineup of speakers unveiled

Joining the distinguished roster of speakers for the commencement of HELCOM’s 50th anniversary celebrations in Riga, Latvia on 25 April 2024 are:

  • Pekka Haavisto, Member of the Parliament of Finland.
  • Karen Ellemann, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers.
  • Leena Ylä-Mononen, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency.
  • Alan Haynie, General Secretary of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.

Hosted by Latvia, which currently holds the Chairmanship of HELCOM, the event will be opened by the Ministers of the Environment of Latvia and Finland, Inga Bērziņa and Kai Mykkänen.

You can also participate in the festive event online by registering here (provided link). The event will take place on Thursday 25 April 2024, from 14:30 to 18:45 (EET).

The 2024 Ministerial Meeting on the Baltic Sea Marine Environment will convene in the morning of 25 April 2024, preceding the 50th anniversary celebrations. Additionally, a side event called “Waves of Change – Accelerating action and finance to save the Baltic Sea,” organized by Coalition Clean Baltic and WWF, is scheduled to take place in Riga the day before on 24 April 2024.

Invited guests onsite include representatives from the HELCOM Contracting Parties, observers, and other past and present associates of HELCOM. The programme highlights the achievements over the past 50 years, while also addressing future challenges. You can access the preliminary programme on the dedicated web page.

* * *

In 2024, it will be 50 years since the original Helsinki Convention was signed.

HELCOM, or the Helsinki Commission, was established at the same time, for the purposes of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area – in essence, to ensure that all the coastal states pursue the many commitments presented for a healthier Baltic Sea. It was a historical moment, as environmental concerns were only starting to shift closer to the mainstream thinking.

HELCOM is a true pioneer in international environmental protection. As the awareness of the massive challenges, particularly climate crisis and biodiversity loss, has since significantly risen, we have much to share about cooperation through changing geopolitical situations.

Join us for a full year of celebrations! We are proud to have come this far.

Save the Baltic Sea: A 6,000 km hike with a call to protect the Baltic


(Save the Baltic Sea campaign press release)
A team of environmental activists will begin their hike around the Baltic Sea, with a series of educational events, discussions and workshops organized in 8 countries, aiming to accelerate action in tackling critical Baltic Sea pollution issues.


March 11, 2024 will mark the date when a team of 13 environmental activists will depart from Klaipėda, Lithuania, to begin their 6,000 kilometer-long journey on foot along the coastline of the Baltic Sea, one of the five most polluted seas in the world. During their 9 month hike, the historic “Save the Baltic Sea” expedition will invite citizens, governments, organizations and businesses to take active measures in order to preserve the sea for future generations.


“The Baltic Sea is in a critical state, which puts the benefits it provides to our region in danger,” says the expedition’s science engagement coordinator Laura Stukonytė. “Unsustainable human activities have put our marine ecosystems under extreme pressure, from excessive nitrogen and phosphorus inflow, to marine litter and hazardous substances reaching the sea from land. At the same time, the Baltic is also being affected by climate change” she adds.


In 2007, the Baltic Sea countries and the European Union (that together form the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, or HELCOM) adopted the Baltic Sea Action Plan – a strategic programme of measures and actions that would lead to a healthy Baltic Sea state by 2030. While some environmental improvements have been seen since the adoption of the plan, HELCOM reports that more than 50% of the agreed-upon joint actions have yet to be implemented.


In support of the Baltic Sea Action Plan, the “Save the Baltic Sea” expedition seeks to accelerate these actions in order to tackle our region’s marine pollution issues. “Each of us living in the Baltic Sea basin contributes to the state of our marine environment, often without even knowing. But it means each of us also has the power to make a change,” says Giedrius Bučas, “Save the Baltic Sea” expedition leader who hiked 1200 kilometers around Lithuania in 2019, collecting litter with a team of volunteers.


Through its unique communication campaign, educational activities and workshops organized with partners in 8 Baltic Sea countries, the current expedition will highlight marine pollution issues, showcase existing innovations and best practices, and inform citizens about actions they can take to reduce their negative impact.


“While our hiker team will dedicate the next 9 months of their lives for this mission, we also welcome everyone to join our events and hike with us in sections of the route, which can be seen on our website at www.savebaltic.eu,” says Bučas.


On March 11, the team of hikers and the expedition’s supporters will officially begin the hike. This first leg will start from Smiltynė – the Northernmost point of the Lithuanian Curonian spit. More information about this and other public events can be found on the expedition’s website and social media channels.

Support the “Save the Baltic Sea” expedition by donating here: https://savebaltic.eu/support/

Contact

info@savebaltic.eu

Proud past, promising future – join the HELCOM 50th anniversary celebrations online on 25 April

Save the date! We are happy to invite the entire extended HELCOM family to join online the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Helsinki Convention and HELCOM. Latvia, currently holding the Chairmanship of HELCOM, will host the celebration event on 25 April 2024 in Riga, starting at 14:00 (CET), with many special guests.

Ministers of the Environment of Latvia and Finland, Inga Bērziņa and Kai Mykkänen, will open the event.

An impressive list of keynote speakers, representing major stakeholder organizations, will also honour the celebrations with their presence. The names of the representatives will be announced soon – stay tuned!

The 50th anniversary celebrations will be preceded by the Ministerial Meeting of the Contracting Parties in the morning of 25 April 2024, and a side event organized by Coalition Clean Baltic and WWF, Waves of Change – Accelerating action and finance to save the Baltic Sea, will take place in Riga the day before.

The guests invited en site include representatives of the HELCOM Contracting Parties, observers and other friends of HELCOM past and present. The special programme reflects the achievements of the first 50 years of HELCOM while looking forward to future challenges. Please find the preliminary programme on the dedicated web page.


In 2024, it will be 50 years since the original Helsinki Convention was signed.

HELCOM, or the Helsinki Commission, was established at the same time, for the purposes of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area – in essence, to ensure that all the coastal states pursue the many commitments presented for a healthier Baltic Sea. It was a historical moment, as environmental concerns were only starting to shift closer to the mainstream thinking.

HELCOM is a true pioneer in international environment protection. As the awareness of the massive challenges, particularly climate crisis and biodiversity loss, has since significantly risen, we have much to share about cooperation through changing geopolitical situations.

Join us for a full year of celebrations! We are proud to have come this far.

Nefco: The Baltic Sea Action Plan Fund grants EUR 1 million to 10 new projects to improve the health of the Baltic Sea

Many of the new projects funded by the Baltic Sea Action Plan Fund (BSAP Fund) have a special focus on marine biodiversity. With Sweden’s latest contribution of SEK 4.5 million, the BSAP Fund continues to support the implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan.

Total funding from the latest BSAP Fund call for proposals amounts to EUR 1 million, which will be distributed to 10 approved projects in Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Poland. The new projects focus on forestry, nutrient discharge, hazardous substances and sea-based activities. The majority of the new projects, six out of ten, will contribute positively to biodiversity.


Read the full Nefco news article

HELCOM to collaborate with the Save the Baltic Sea campaign

Save the Baltic Sea is a hiking expedition and an environmental campaign around the Baltic Sea covering eight countries, taking place in 2024. The main organizer is a Lithuanian NGO Už švarią Lietuvą (“For a clean Lithuania”). HELCOM will be one of the official partners in the campaign, along with the EU4Ocean Platform, the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Lithuania and a network of scientific institutes and non-governmental organizations from the eight countries.

The purpose of the expedition is to further improve marine conservation culture in the Baltic Sea countries, inform citizens about the state of our marine ecosystems, and bring together local communities and stakeholders to break down barriers in halting marine pollution.

During the expedition, a team of activists will hike almost 6000 kilometers around the Baltic Sea in 9 months. In each of the countries the team will cross, they will gather local communities and stakeholders for ocean literacy activities and living labs – collaborative workshops that will aim to catalyze collective action in mitigating pollution in the Baltic Sea.

The campaign aims are aligned with HELCOM’s Baltic Sea Action Plan, especially HT27: “Increase knowledge exchange and awareness raising to promote public and stakeholder support and interest in understanding the state of the Baltic Sea and threats to its environment as well as promote opportunities for the general public to participate in citizen science” and HL7: “Launch educational and information campaigns by 2025 to raise public awareness regarding responsible handling of hazardous substances in household chemicals and articles to prevent their release into the environment.”

The expedition will set off in March 2024 from Lithuania. More information about the campaign and related activities can be found here: https://savebaltic.eu/

Contact

Johanna Laurila
HELCOM Communication Advisor
johanna.laurila@helcom.fi, +358 40 6473996


Laura Stukonytė
Save The Baltic Sea science engagement coordinator
science@savebaltic.eu

New criteria for sustainable aquaculture are a best practice example from HELCOM

HELCOM has officially unveiled the comprehensive Best Available Technologies (BAT) and Best Environmental Practices (BEP) for sustainable aquaculture in the Baltic Sea region, marking the culmination of extensive and constructive efforts. Helsinki Convention, governed by HELCOM, is the first Regional Seas Convention in Europe that has such specific guidance on aquaculture and can be regarded as a best practice example.

The balance between protection of the highly sensitive and strained Baltic Sea marine environment and the needs of the growing aquaculture sector was challenging to negotiate, but the successful and ambitious BAT/BEP descriptions give thorough and concrete guidance for both marine and freshwater aquaculture.

The pioneering BAT/BEP document is highly detailed, and it covers a wide range of issues, from inputs of nutrients and hazardous substances to marine litter, non-indigenous species and escapees, underwater noise, sustainable feed and feeding practices, as well as permits, monitoring and staff training. For instance, aquaculture can be a source of hazardous substance inputs through veterinary medicinal products, antifouling coatings, and cleaning and disinfection products. Concerning nutrient inputs, the key reason for eutrophication in the Baltic Sea, BAT/BEP descriptions recommend to set discharge limits that take account of the nutrient reduction scheme of HELCOM and the goals of the Baltic Sea Action Plan.

A regular reporting process aims to secure that HELCOM Contracting Parties apply the guidelines in their aquaculture operations.

The new BAT/BEP descriptions help to ensure that the growing aquaculture sector develops sustainably in the Baltic Sea.

BAT/BEP descriptions of sustainable aquaculture in the Baltic Sea region

Contact

Johanna Laurila

Communication Advisor, HELCOM

+358 40 6473996

Survey on expanded plastics (EPS/XPS) from buoys, floats or docks, including pontoons

Please take a moment to answer this survey by 1 June 2023, especially if you represent the plastic industry, environmental protection agencies and/or the fisheries sector.

The answers will help develop buoys, floats and docks, which do not release expanded polystyrene (EPS) and other problematic materials to the marine environment, as a part of implementing the HELCOM Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter.

The completion of the survey will take ca 20-30 minutes.

Thank you for your contribution!

Improving HOLAS 3 advocacy: please answer to a short survey by 28 February 2023

HELCOM Secretariat wants to be more targeted and effective in advocating the forthcoming Third holistic assessment of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS 3), by collecting information on different key target groups.

HELCOM prepares holistic assessments of the state of the Baltic Sea at regular intervals, to track progress on the effectiveness of measures and actions, created to improve the state of the sea.

📌 Please answer to this online survey to give your input: https://lnkd.in/dmNc6p2U

📌 Answering the survey will take 2-3 minutes. Please provide your replies by 28 February 2023.

📌 Feel free to share the survey extensively with your colleagues or any relevant networks.

Help us improve the protection of the Baltic marine environment! 
We appreciate your help very much.

Contact

Mock Employee
Johanna Laurila

Communications Advisor
johanna.laurila@helcom.fi
+358 647 3996

New results on improving the state of the Baltic Sea are tailored for both knowledge-gap and policy needs

HELCOM BLUES Project had its Final Conference online last week and the memo, as well as all presentations and the recording of the Conference, can be now accessed at the project site.

Recording of the BLUES Final Conference

New results regarding Baltic Sea biodiversity, marine litter and underwater noise, as well as effective regional measures addressing various pressures affecting the sea, were presented, including key messages for both science and policy makers. Few new HELCOM indicators have been created within the Project, as well as further developing the existing ones.

Most parts of the project have been designed so that they can be utilized straight by the forthcoming HELCOM Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS 3). The work also closely links to other processes related to good environmental status (GES) in the Baltic Sea, such as the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MFSD) and the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP).

Good environmental status, or GES, and a Baltic Sea in a healthy state has been at the core of the BLUES project. “GES is has become a buzzword, but it is important to remember that underpinning the work to reach good status of the environment as part of various policies, is the reality that our society is part of the environment. GES is not external to our own existence and wellbeing but something that has a direct effect on us”, reminded the manager of the project, Jannica Haldin, in her remarks at the end of the Conference.

BLUES Final Conference web page