Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

BSAP update 2021

The overall objective of the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) to reach good environmental status of the Baltic Sea by 2021 will most likely not be reached. Nevertheless, the BSAP has shown promising results towards improving the state of the sea. The mandate for an update was therefore given by the Brussels Ministerial Declaration in March 2018. An evolution rather than a revolution, the BSAP update seeks to become a fit-for-purpose and effective tool, addressing the shortcomings of the current plan and taking into account emerging issues.

Why will the BSAP be updated?

The ecological objectives of the BSAP are unlikely to be fully achieved by 2021, and the Baltic Sea will most likely not reach good environmental status by then.

Nevertheless, various trends are pointing towards improvements. Having produced tangible results, the BSAP has been instrumental in these advances.

HELCOM and its members have therefore decided to update and reconduct the BSAP after 2021. 

The update is also an opportunity to review the current plan taking into account: 

  • The efficiency of current measures and adapting them if found necessary
  • New issues such as underwater noise, marine litter
  • Economic and social benefits of achieving the BSAP objectives 
  • Ecosystem approach
  • Water and ocean related SDGs, the Aichi targets, and MSFD descriptors (for EU countries)

What will change in the new structure of the updated BSAP?

In general, the essence of the original BSAP will remain, notably maintaining its focus on eutrophication, hazardous substances, maritime activities and biodiversity. The updated BSAP will also accomodate new challenges that might emerge during the update process. 

Why the adjustments?

The adjustments will allow to:

  • Increase the integration of cross-cutting issues, such as the ecosystem approach, reaching good environmental status, or climate change
  • Better reflect the current topics addressed in HELCOM such as marine litter, underwater noise, seabed loss and disturbance, and conservation measures for biodiversity. 
  • Facilitate the inclusion of ocean-related SDGs, Aichi targets and MSFD descriptors
  • Get closer to the overall goal: achieving good environmental status 

Why the BSAP is still well-suited to address the environmental challenges of the Baltic Sea

  • All major environmental problems are addressed in a single plan, based on the best available knowledge. 
  • In general, actions currently included are concrete and have deadlines.
  • The structure of the BSAP is relatively straight forward and its objectives are formulated in a clear and understandable manner.
  • Stakeholders are invited to, and do contribute to, the implementation of the plan.
  • There is a follow-up system to track progress.

How will the BSAP be updated? What are the timeframes?

The BSAP will be updated in three phases:

1. Formulation phase: mid 2018 – mid 2019

  • Establishing the workplan for the update
  • Proposals for adjustments to the BSAP structure
  • Status of the current BSAP implementation

2. Creating the content phase mid-2019 – end of 2020

  • Review of the current BSAP
  • Analysis of sufficiency of measures

3. Renaissance phase: end 2019 – 2021

  • Proposing new actions and improvement of the existing actions

Overall organization and division of responsibility for the BSAP update

  • HELCOM Heads of Delegation: The HELCOM Heads of Delegation – the representatives of each HELCOM Constituent Party – will provide the overall guidance for the BSAP update process. 

  • HELCOM groups: Finer details and aspects of the BSAP update will be dealt with by the existing working structure, in particular by the HELCOM Working Groups. 

  • BSAP-UP project: the BSAP-UP project functions at an operational level to support and facilitate the work of the Contracting Parties to update the BSAP. The work within the project will be carried out by: 1) the HELCOM Secretariat and a dedicated project manager, 2) Contracting Parties taking lead roles for specific topics or themes, and 3) any additional resources that may be mobilized to carry out the work.

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