Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

 

Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Sea trout are back in Lithuanian river after successful restoration under the RETROUT project

©Piotr Wawrzyniuk – stock.adobe.com

Sea trout are reproducing again in parts of the Smeltalė river in Lithuania after a successful restoration exercise under the Baltic-wide RETROUT project.

“We counted 13 new sea trout nests within only two months after the restoration work was finished,” said Nerijus Nika from Klaipeda University, one of the partners responsible for the Lithuanian river restorations within RETROUT, further noting that the specifically created reproduction sections, or spawning habitats, were all intensively used by sea trout. The restoration work was completed in September 2019.

RETROUT carries out a number of river restoration demonstration cases in the project partner countries to improve the condition of sea trout populations. 

“For viable and healthy sea trout populations, we need healthy and accessible rivers. Unfortunately, many rivers potentially suitable for sea trout aren’t yet in the condition we’d like them to be,” said Henri Jokinen, the RETROUT project manager at HELCOM.

In Lithuania, the rehabilitation started with the creation of a system of meandering shallow ponds in an area of the Smeltalė river previously purposed as a surface flow treatment wetland for improved water quality. 

Since its construction 20 years ago, the wetland hadn’t been maintained, accumulating excessive sediments from defaulting sedimentation ponds as well as suffering from excessive vegetation on its banks. 

In addition, a 500 m section was modified in the Smeltaitė stream, a main tributary of Smeltalė river, using stones, gravel and logs to create three 50 m long spawning and juvenile rearing habitats. 

“According to local experts, such habitats are spawning hot spots for salmonids and lampreys in lowland streams of Lithuania,” said Jokinen. Indeed, all three created spawning habitat sections were intensively used by sea trout only two months after completion. 

In the Smeltaitė stream, the two biggest trout nests – of 7,5 m2 and 10 m2 – were found in the restored stretch, in habitats pre-evaluated to be of high priority for sea trout females. One of these sites was constantly occupied for 1.5 month by up to five different trout, a rather unusual spawning behaviour. 

With special focus on sea trout, the RETROUT project seeks to promote and develop sustainable coastal fishing tourism in the Baltic Sea region. RETROUT initiated 15 restoration cases in coastal rivers of Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Sweden. Measures under the project cover fishways, biotope restorations, water quality improvement, and dam removal plans. 

In the RETROUT project, HELCOM leads the work package on Assessment of status and management of sea trout rivers and stocks which focuses mainly on the ecological aspect of trout fishing, notably through assessing fish stock and river habitat status, and by evaluating river restoration practices to improve trout populations. 

The main results will be published as an assessment report and as a toolbox of best practices and guidelines for river restoration in the Baltic Sea. 

“In addition to improving the actual condition of a river, the experience we get from these demonstration cases will help us to develop the ‘Guidelines for river restoration best practices in the Baltic Sea region,’ another major outcome of the project,” said Jokinen.

The restoration of the Smeltalė river was conducted by the Klaipeda District Municipality Administration, with technical and scientific support from the Klaipeda University. 

Photos from Smeltalė river, Lithuania. © Nerijus Nika

Two sea trout in their newly restored habitat. © Tomas Ruginis

Coastal fish assessments will continue in the Baltic Sea with renewed HELCOM project

 Members of the FISH-PRO III project in Helsinki on 13 February 2019. © HELCOMCoastal fish assessments will continue to be carried out in the Baltic Sea with renewed commitment from the HELCOM countries, as shown during the first meeting of the  that was held in Helsinki from 12 to 14 February 2019. The focus of the meeting was to finalize the revised monitoring guideline for coastal fish in HELCOM, and to follow up on the development work of the indicators used for the assessments of coastal fish.”The Helsinki meeting took us a step further in the development of additional indicators for coastal fish,” said Jens Olsson, project manager of FISH-PRO III and chair of the meeting.The current  on coastal fish notably evaluate the abundance of typical species of fish, such as perch and flounder, in the coastal areas of the Baltic Sea. They also evaluate the status of key functional groups such as piscivores, cyprinids and mesopredators.FISH-PRO III – the Continuation of the Project for Baltic-wide assessment of coastal fish communities in support of an ecosystem-based management – follows the FISH-PRO II project. Findings from FISH-PRO II were recently published in the . HELCOM thematic assessments on coastal fish have been produced since 2006. Attended by participants from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden, the meeting was instrumental in outlining the project’s thematic areas of work and workplan for the coming years. Furthermore, the assessments produced by FISH-PRO III will also feed the . 

Coastal fish assessments will continue to be carried out in the Baltic Sea with renewed commitment from the HELCOM countries, as shown during the first meeting of the FISH-PRO III project that was held in Helsinki from 12 to 14 February 2019.

HELCOM report on coastal fish in the Baltic Sea finds that only half of the assessed areas are in a good state

 HELCOM recently published a report assessing coastal fish in the Baltic, the . According to the report, only about half of the assessed areas obtain a good status.In general, the overall status of varies between geographical areas, with the north of the Baltic faring slightly better than the south. Key species and piscivores show a better status in more northern areas of the Baltic, compared to the south of the sea. For cyprinids, the status is often insufficient due to overabundance, especially in the north-eastern part of the Baltic.  “The report summarizes the current status of coastal fish communities in the Baltic Sea as derived from official monitoring programs of the ,” said Jens Olsson from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and who led the report. “It also contains short reviews on the factors regulating the communities and potential measures for the restoration and protection of coastal fish in the Baltic Sea.”To date, measures to restore and support coastal fish communities have barely been evaluated. As highlighted in the report, fishing regulations including permanent or temporary no-take areas, gear regulations, and habitat protection and restoration are measures that have shown to have a positive effects on fish populations.Coastal fish communities are regulated by a plethora of both natural and human-induced factors such as fishing, habitat exploitation, climate, eutrophication and interactions between species in the ecosystem.In being in the central part of the food-web, coastal fish are of key ecological and socio-economic importance, and their status often reflects the general health of coastal ecosystems.Depending on the sub-basin, the assessed key species were mainly perch and, in some southern areas, also flounder. The monitored piscivorous fish were perch, pike, pike-perch, burbot, cod and turbot. In the cyprinid family, roach and breams dominated the catch assessed. In the few areas where cyprinids do not occur naturally, mesopredatory fish were assessed instead, such as wrasses, sticklebacks, flatfishes, clupeids and gobies.”The information contained in this report is a valuable basis for following up on the objectives of the  and , as well as for the development of national management plans for coastal fish,” concluded Olsson.   –For more information:Jens OlssonSwedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU Aqua)jens.olsson@slu.se

HELCOM recently published a report assessing coastal fish in the Baltic. According to the report, only about half of the assessed areas obtain a good status.

Eel and the Baltic Sea in the focus of a joint regional workshop

Experts to discuss Baltic Sea processes for eel assessment and managementAim: identifying ways of working together on eel more efficientlyEel and the Baltic Sea is the topic of a regional workshop starting today in Stockholm, which gathers representatives from management bodies, scientific experts, and relevant stakeholders in charge of assessment and management of eel in countries around the Baltic Sea and its tributaries. European eel. Image: The workshop will share information on international, regional, and national processes on eel assessment and management that are relevant for the Baltic Sea. Based on this, the workshop will discuss similarities, differences, challenges, and opportunities for next steps.”During the three days, we bring together information, expertise, and interest, in order to identify possible ways to contribute to managing this shared resource. We will especially consider how we could work together in the Baltic Sea region more efficiently,” says Willem Dekker, the workshop moderator and senior scientist at the Swedish University of Agriculture (SLU) specialised on eel.The workshop is organized as part of the , in cooperation with the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and Sargasso Sea Commission (SSC), and with presentations from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the EU Commission and the Baltic Sea Advisory Council (BSAC). The Workshop is hosted by the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SWAM) with the Swedish University of Agriculture (SLU). The outcome will be submitted to the HELCOM Fish group and other organizations/bodies, as appropriate, for consideration and follow-up.* * *Background informationThe deals with the implementation of the ecosystem-based approach in fisheries and considers how the sector could help reach Good Environmental Status in the Baltic Sea by 2021. The group involves representatives from fisheries and environmental authorities of the Baltic Sea countries, as well as EU, and HELCOM Observers and others as appropriate. Its official name is the HELCOM Group on Ecosystem-based Sustainable Fisheries. The Task force on migratory fish species (FISH-M) is a sub-group of HELCOM FISH which looks at the particular challenges around migratory fish species such as salmon, seatrout and eel.HELCOM is an intergovernmental organization made up of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union. Founded in 1974, its primary aims as a governing body are to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution, as well as to ensure safe maritime navigation. The official name of HELCOM is the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission; it is the governing body of the Helsinki Convention.* * *ContactsWillem DekkerSenior scientist, Swedish University of Agricultural SciencesMobile: +46 76 126 8136 E-mail: Willem.Dekker@slu.seHermanni Backer Professional Secretary for Maritime, Response and Fish groups HELCOM Tel: +358 46 8509199 Skype: helcom02 E-mail: hermanni.backer(at)helcom.fi

Experts to discuss Baltic Sea processes for eel assessment and management, with the aim of identifying ways of working together on eel more efficiently

Mapping the use of regional HELCOM AIS data on ships

The current and future uses of the regional HELCOM AIS data were discussed in a dedicated open seminar this week at the HELCOM Secretariat. The open event, part of recent fast developments around one of the first regional AIS data networks, was attended by researchers, national AIS data experts and companies.Since the launch in 2005 the HELCOM AIS network has enabled the HELCOM Contracting Parties (Denmark, Estonia, European Union (EMSA), Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden) as well as Norway to share the live Automatic Identification System (AIS) data received by their national base stations. It has also generated a unique regional database on historic ship movements in the Baltic Sea.The network itself, and the resulting data, is overseen by the dedicated HELCOM Expert Working Group on AIS and data, meeting annually since 2002. The network server is, since this year, hosted by Norway.AIS data from this regional network is increasingly used for various purposes extending far beyond operational safety of navigation, including analysing emissions from ships and enabling accidental spill risk assessments in the Baltic Sea.However, the wider HELCOM community, especially research, has only recently been able to use this valuable information in full, due to the lack of joint and openly available data processing methods, tools and definitions. Examples of such products include traffic density maps which can be used for various purposes from Maritime Spatial Planning, safety and environmental policy. The same issues are facing AIS data users around the world.The seminar debated different approaches and uses of AIS data in order to support the development of the needed joint and open data processing methods, tools and definitions for the HELCOM community and beyond.* * Note for editorsHELCOM AIS Working Group is a sub-group of the HELCOM Maritime Working Group. It governs the regional AIS network and meets annually since 2002.HELCOM is an intergovernmental organization made up of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union. Founded in 1974, its primary aims as the governing body of the Helsinki Convention are to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution. This includes pollution from ships and safe maritime navigation, fields where the work involves regional dimensions of IMO regulations and initiatives. The full official name of HELCOM is the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission.* * *For more information, please contact:Hermanni BackerProfessional Secretary for Maritime, Response and FishHELCOMTel:  +358 46 8509199Skype: helcom02E-mail: hermanni.backer(at)helcom.fi ​

The current and future uses of the regional HELCOM AIS data were discussed in a dedicated open seminar this week at the HELCOM Secretariat.

A fishy part of marine environmental policy?

​​​This week is all about fish in the Baltic Sea as three HELCOM meetings dealing with sustainable fisheries are held back-to-back in Gothenburg, Sweden. Key topics for HELCOM professionals gathering this week include migratory fish species, indicators, as well as the follow up of the recent HELCOM Recommendation on aquaculture. HELCOM has worked for years for healthy Baltic Sea as important parts of the ecosystem, weakened by unsustainable fishing as well as pollution including eutrophication-induced oxygen depletion and high levels of hazardous substances. Baltic herring. Photo: Riku Lumiaro/SYKE.On Monday, the nominated Task Force will prioritize HELCOM tasks for the next two years in the field of migratory fish such as salmon, sea trout and eel.  The following day’s HELCOM workshop on fish indicators focuses on the goals related to fish in the Baltic. More specifically, the participants will weigh in on the interaction between goals rooted in environmental policy – HELCOM indicators – and those derived from fisheries policy of the European Union. On Wednesday and Thursday, HELCOM discusses, e.g., the ways to start implementing the HELCOM Recommendation on sustainable aquaculture, which was adopted in March. Work has started on creating a suitable set of Best Available Technology / Best Environmental Practices descriptions. The group will also work on solutions to improve the information exchange between HELCOM and other Baltic Sea regional organizations active in the field of fish, fisheries, and aquaculture. Data collection on fish, such as the availability of information on incidental catches, will also be addressed at the Fish group meeting. All documents will be available after the meetings:Second Meeting of the HELCOM Task Force on migratory fish species (), 9 May 2016. The Meeting will elect a chair for itself.HELCOM workshop on fish indicators (), 10 May 2016. Moderated by Ulrika Gunnartz, Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SWAM). 4th Meeting of the Group on Ecosystem-based Sustainable Fisheries (), 11-12 May 2016. Meeting will be chaired by Mr. Marcin Rucinski, Chair of the group.  * * * Note for editors: deals with the implementation of the ecosystem-based approach in fisheries and considers how the sector could help reach Good Environmental Status in the Baltic Sea by 2021. The group involves representatives from fisheries and environmental authorities of the Baltic Sea countries, as well as EU, and HELCOM Observers and others as appropriate. Its official name is the HELCOM Group on Ecosystem-based Sustainable Fisheries.  is an intergovernmental organization made up of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union. Founded in 1974, its primary aims as a governing body are to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution, as well as to ensure safe maritime navigation. The official name of HELCOM is the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission; it is the governing body of the Helsinki Convention. * * *For more information, please contact:Hermanni BackerProfessional Secretary for Maritime, Response and Fish groupsHELCOMTel:  +358 46 8509199Skype: helcom02E-mail: hermanni.backer(at)helcom.fi Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi

This week is all about fish in the Baltic Sea as three HELCOM meetings dealing with sustainable fisheries are held back-to-back in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Noise, aquaculture and conservation among top items for HELCOM delegates

Starting tomorrow, the country delegates of HELCOM will gather to decide upon a great amount of issues concerning the Baltic Sea and the protection of its marine environment. Heads of Delegation of HELCOM possess a high degree of power over the proposed topics, among the top ones approving the Roadmap on underwater noise and the Recommendation on sustainable aquaculture, and follow-up on the protection of threatened and endangered species.

Starting tomorrow, the country delegates of HELCOM will gather to decide upon a great amount of issues concerning the Baltic Sea and the protection of its marine environment.

HELCOM finalizing Recommendation on sustainable aquaculture

​​​​​​​​​The HELCOM Recommendation on aquaculture is the lead topic in a Fish group continuing today in Warsaw, Poland, as most if not all pending issues on the Recommendation are expected to be solved. Aquaculture is a growing commercial sector still with a good chance for achieving a balance between economical profit and environmental protection.  The HELCOM Group on Ecosystem-based Sustainable Fisheries renewed its operations last year and involves a solid representation of administrative, scientific and civil society’s representatives from all the countries of the Baltic region.One key point of negotiating the aquaculture Recommendation is the risk of non-indigenous species. Photo: Sergey Titov&GosNIORKhThe aim of the draft Recommendation on aquaculture is to give guidance for the best practices for minimizing and preventing negative environmental impact of aquaculture on marine ecosystems of the Baltic Sea. The core issues still to be agreed on by the HELCOM members – nine riparian countries and the EU –​ relate to nutrients input to the Baltic Sea and establishment of aquaculture facilities in marine protected areas. Another vital part concerns the risk of non-indigenous species, as they are common in fish farming but if accidentally released, may have impact on wild populations of species. The Recommendation is to be finalized by June this year as decided earlier by HELCOM. The Group has yesterday discussed and concluded on how to take forward the work in HELCOM on conservation of migratory fish species, recreational fisheries and assessing its impact on fish mortality and coastal ecosystems as such. Also covered in the Meeting agenda is the work on data for core indicators to assess the progress towards Good Environmental Status of the Baltic Sea. Especially, it has been considered important to address by-catch and lack of monitoring data for the core indicator on drowned mammals and waterbirds in fishing gear, as accidental catch is a significant mortality factor for some species in the Baltic Sea. In general, HELCOM is soon to finalize close to thirty core indicators, which are crucial for improving the evaluation of progress in reaching the goal of the Baltic Sea in a healthy status.  The Meeting is chaired by Mr. Marcin Ruciński, Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Chair of the Fish Group. . All documents will be public after the meeting. * * *Note for editorsHELCOM Group on Ecosystem-based Sustainable Fisheries – – deals with fisheries in relation to the implementation of the ecosystem-based approach. Moreover, the group responds to the need to find solutions on how the sector could further contribute to reaching Good Environmental Status of the Baltic Sea by 2021. The Fish Group involves representatives from fisheries and environment authorities of the Baltic Sea countries, as well as EU, and HELCOM Observers and others as appropriate. The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as , 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. * * * For more information, please contact:Dmitry Frank-KamenetskyProfessional SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 630 9933Skype: helcom68E-mail: dmitry.frank-kamenetsky(at)helcom.fi Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fI

Aquaculture is a growing commercial sector, covering e.g. fish farming, still with a chance for a balance between economical profit and environmental protection.

Regional work on Baltic Sea protection sharpens up

The Regional action plan for marine and the Recommendation
on the conservation of in the Baltic Sea are both expecting
adoption this week as the highest body of HELCOM, the Annual Meeting, convenes
in Helsinki, Finland. The delegates of the Contracting Parties of the Helsinki
Convention, representing the nine coastal Baltic countries as well as the EU,
will also address the on effective regional work between HELCOM and the
EU Strategy of the Baltic Sea Region, as the revision of the Action Plan of the
Strategy is about to be finalized soon.

 op-10 items found in the Baltic Sea as well as micro-plastics have special measures reserved in the marine litter action plan. Photo: Bo Eide/Flickr.

Marine litter is a growing concern globally as well as regionally, and the HELCOM Recommendation on Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter is the first comprehensive approach to the problem in the Baltic Sea region. The HELCOM commitment from 2013 is to achieve a significant quantitative reduction of marine litter by 2025, compared to 2015.  The plan integrates the actions required at regional level as well as the national actions by countries according to their needs. Special measures are addressed to the top-10 items found in the Baltic Sea as well micro-plastics. The document also highlights the importance of environmental education and recommends coordinated monitoring programmes for the common marine litter indicators. The Marine litter action plan, to be successfully implemented, will require the countries’ leadership for specific actions as well as wide involvement of stakeholders in the region. Close cooperation with other Regional Seas Conventions, and the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, has also been brought up as a way to realize a wide ranging measures. Moreover, adequate protection for the will take shape after the expected adoption of the new HELCOM Recommendation. The new Recommendation follows up on the critical situation of many Baltic Sea species as concluded in the 2013 HELCOM Red List of Baltic Sea in danger of becoming extinct (). Preparation of a Recommendation on the Conservation of is expected to begin shortly. The Annual Meeting, held on 3-4 March, will also follow up on the recent to institutionalize the cooperation under HELCOM policies and the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, for better defining the complementarity of the roles and specific tasks. As both in HELCOM and under EUSBSR there are shared action areas, more systematic cooperation will save resources and add to the efficiency in reaching the mutual goals. Other key topics under negotiations:-          Finalization of the HELCOM Recommendation on sustainable aquaculture. Substituting the existing HELCOM Recommendation (25/4) aims to limit potential environmental impacts of aquaculture activities such as the introduction of non-indigenous species, ecological and genetic impacts on wild fish stocks from unintended releases of farmed species, nutrient pollution, as well as introduction of antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals. Aquaculture, including fish farming, is a growing food production industry that continues to have large potential for green technologies and environmentally friendly production methods, both in marine and fresh waters.-          Adoption of the Revised HELCOM Guidelines for Management of Dredged Material at Sea.-          Adopting the revised HELCOM Recommendation 25/7 on safety of winter navigation in the Baltic Sea Area, including a new harmonization of approximate correspondence of ice classes-          Adopting the revised HELCOM Recommendation 34E/4 “Airborne surveillance with remote sensing equipment in the Baltic Sea area”-          Finalization of a work plan to improve regional coherence, in the implementation of different marine policies to reach Good Environmental Status –          Cooperation with other Regional Seas Conventions and organizations – newest developments * * *Note for editorsThe Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as, 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. * * *For more information, please contact:Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi

Marine litter, Recommendation on threatened species and the revision of the EU Regional Strategy Action Plan and HELCOM are top items of the HELCOM Annual Meeting.

Ties closing between HELCOM and Baltic Sea regional strategy

The cooperation between HELCOM and the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) is expected to smoothen.  For the first time, a dedicated session with the representatives from relevant EUSBSR Priority Areas and Horizontal Actions was successfully organized as a part of this week’s of HELCOM Heads of Delegation representing all the Baltic coastal countries as well as the EU. The full meeting is now available online, listing all the issues addressed and decided on in the meeting for the benefit of the Baltic marine environment.Improving cooperation in practice was the key topic of HELCOM session with representatives from the EU Strategy for the Baltic sea Region. Photo: Dodik Putro.Concrete proposals on why and how to improve the synergies between HELCOM and EUSBSR have been listed in the meeting outcome. The shared goal would be to better communicate the policy directions and needs by HELCOM, which then can be met with and supported by the EUSBSR work and projects. The meeting recommended practical ways for better use of the expertise of HELCOM groups. Using the existing forums, co-chairing, back-to-back meetings, opportunity for involving Russian experts, and helping HELCOM countries in tapping into EU funding were also mentioned as practical solutions for more effective regional cooperation. The timing for the joint HELCOM-EUSBSR meeting was particularly adept, as the HELCOM streamlining process has been completed few months ago while the Action Plan of the EUSBSR is currently under revision, expecting launch at the Strategy’s Annual Forum in mid-June 2015. As per other results of the Heads of Delegation meeting, HELCOM “sub-hot spot” No. 18.1 “Construction of new sewer connections” was deleted, concerning the waste water treatment system of St. Petersburg. A large-scale environmental project for the construction of the northern tunnel collector of the city of five million inhabitants was finalized in October 2013, preventing the discharge of untreated waste water into the Neva River by approximately 122 million m3 per year. Since then, 98.4% of waste water has been estimated as adequately treated in St. Petersburg. HELCOM originally included 162 of the region’s significant sources of pollution, out of which over two thirds have since been mitigated.   Adequate reception for passenger ships was also negotiated by the Meeting, being part of the larger process of complying with the Baltic’s status as a sewage special area as decided by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in 2011. The consultations for a joint notification on the adequacy of ports’ reception facilities will continue via correspondence early next year. The meeting was held on 9-10 December 2014 and it was chaired by the current Estonian Chair of HELCOM, Mr. Harry Liiv. ..  * * * Note for editorsThe European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region () is the first macro-regional strategy in Europe. It aims at reinforcing cooperation within this large region in order to face several challenges by working together as well as promoting a more balanced development in the area. The Strategy also contributes to major EU policies and reinforces the integration within the area. The (HOD) of HELCOM usually meet few times a year. While the Annual Meeting of HELCOM remains the Commission’s highest decision-making body, the Heads of Delegation have a relatively high authority over most major issues.  The working structure of HELCOM, supported and administered by the Secretariat, comprises of the Helsinki Commission, the Heads of Delegation, and eight main working groups, together with tens of expert groups, correspondence groups and projects. The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as , 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. * * * For more information, please contact:Johanna Laurila Information Secretary HELCOM Tel: +358 40 523 8988 Skype: helcom70 E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi​

For the first time, a dedicated session with the representatives from relevant EUSBSR areas was organized as a part of this week’s meeting of HELCOM Heads of Delegation.