Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

 

Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

HELCOM launches its BLUES project to support attaining good environmental status in the Baltic Sea

Good environmental status, or GES, and a Baltic Sea in healthy state are at the core of the HELCOM BLUES project that was officially launched online from 2 to 4 February 2021. Co-funded by the European Union and led by HELCOM, the Baltic-wide effort will run through 2022, for a total period of two years. 

To help attaining GES in the Baltic Sea, the HELCOM BLUES project will support the development of new and regionally coordinated measures addressing various pressures affecting the sea. It will also back assessments of the state of the Baltic through improved monitoring, notably on biodiversity, marine litter and underwater noise. 

“HELCOM BLUES is an opportunity to fill the gaps we have identified so far during our journey towards good environmental status in the Baltic Sea,” said Jannica Haldin, the overall project manager and HELCOM senior expert dealing with biodiversity matters. HELCOM is concluding its first analysis ever of the sufficiency of measures (SOM) currently in place for easing the pressures on the sea, with the results expected to inform the work of the new project.

“GES is a Baltic-wide objective, and we can only achieve it through a collective effort and regional cooperation,” said Jana Wolf, the HELCOM project coordinator in charge of the day-to-day operations of HELCOM BLUES. In total, 14 partners and seven subcontractors  with various backgrounds such as policy, research, academia or civil society and hailing from six Baltic Sea countries are involved in the project.

“The project also closely links to the big processes related to GES in the Baltic such as the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MFSD), the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) and the next Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS III),” said Haldin.

On the MFSD, the specific requests expressed by the EU in its initial call for project proposals – which is at the origin of HELCOM BLUES – were taken into account, notably on the development of effective regional measures to reduce existing pressures to the Baltic Sea, with a focus on biodiversity, marine litter and underwater noise. Furthermore, all results of the project will be made accessible to the Baltic Sea countries who are also EU member states to support their national obligations under the MSFD.

The outcomes of the project will also underpin the implementation of the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan that is due to be adopted in October 2021 by providing monitoring data and guidance on the implementation of measures. 

It will also support HELCOM’s next Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS III) covering the period of 2016 to 2021. The project will notably provide improved assessment data, for instance by improving the capacity for biodiversity reporting and the development of indicators on marine litter and underwater noise. 

Project activities

The project is built around seven activities:

  • Activity 1 – Analyses to support effective regional measures
  • Activity 2 – Improved regional assessment of biodiversity  
  • Activity 3 – Support for, and harmonisation of, regional work on MSFD Descriptor 10 (marine litter)  
  • Activity 4 – Support for, and harmonisation of, regional work on MSFD Descriptor 11 (underwater noise) 
  • Activity 5 – Data accessibility 
  • Activity 6 – Dissemination 
  • Activity 7 – Project Coordination 

More info

Managers of marine protected areas connect in Vaasa for better transboundary collaboration

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Reed aquatic grass in Finland © Pixabay

To improve cooperation and transboundary management between marine protected areas in the Baltic Sea, HELCOM organised its Second Marine Protected Areas Management Workshop in Vaasa, Finland from 9 to 12 September 2019.

“Species do not care about lines on a map,” said Jannica Haldin, the HELCOM Professional Secretary handling biodiversity, adding that marine protected areas (MPAs) are part of larger ecosystems that may include other MPAs, hence the need for a concerted regional approach to their management.

What’s more, there are currently several types of MPAs in the Baltic Sea, such as areas protected under national legislation, the EU’s Natura 2000 areas, and HELCOM MPAs. Overlaps between these areas – and legislations – are often significant.

Despite the fact that the combined area of all MPAs covers large parts of the Baltic, there is still insufficient assessment of how effective their management is. According to the MPA managers themselves, there is a lack of overview on methods, best practices and guidelines best suited for the region.

“In HELCOM, we have seen that MPA managers face identical challenges, no matter what part of the Baltic they are from,” said Haldin. “We therefore wanted to bring them together to share their experiences and find ways to improve cross-border work and to better navigate between the overlapping frameworks they may be working in.”

In placing the main focus on stakeholder interaction in marine conservation, a key topic identified during the first MPA management workshop held in 2018, the Vaasa event provided a platform for the managers to exchange views on common approaches, and to improve transboundary cooperation.

HELCOM already established the region’s first MPA Management Network (EN MPA MANET) earlier this year. One major aim of the network has been to link the different national and regional frameworks and international commitments such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, to ensure that the different obligations are well understood.

The workshop in Vaasa, co-financed by the EU Biogeographical Process and hosted by Parks and Wildlife Finland, was the first official meeting of the EN MPA MANET network and was held in Kvarken, or the Quark – a HELCOM MPA, Natura 2000 site and UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

Currently, 177 sites are listed in the HELCOM MPA database. Since the designation of the first HELCOM MPAs in 1994, there has been a substantial increase in the coverage of MPAs, from 3.9 percent of the Baltic Sea area in 2004 to 13.5 percent today.

Bye-bye bycatch: HELCOM and OSPAR are pooling efforts to deal with incidental catch of species

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To better understand incidental bycatch of marine mammals and seabirds due to fishing, HELCOM and its sister organization from the North Sea, OSPAR, held a joint workshop in Copenhagen, Denmark from 3 to 5 September 2019.

Bycatch has been identified as a serious pressure on several species in both the North and Baltic Seas. According to estimates published in the HELCOM State of the Baltic Sea report, up to 200,000 seabirds drown annually in both seas, trapped in fishing gear.

The report further indicates that only 500 harbour porpoises and 100 ringed seals are estimated to remain in the Baltic Proper – the central part of the Baltic – and the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland respectively. Bycatch is therefore a major threat to these already low populations.

“The North and Baltic Seas have a direct ecological connection, with species freely moving between the two basins,” said Jannica Haldin, the HELCOM Professional Secretary in charge of biodiversity, further stressing that a common approach is essential to effectively address the bycatch issue.

By the same token, the workshop paved the way towards a proposal for joint conservation objectives on incidental bycatch between the two sister seas, which may further lead to the development of a common regional indicator on bycatch applicable in both areas.

HELCOM already has its own indicator on bycatch – Number of drowned mammals and waterbirds in fishing gear – which currently makes a descriptive evaluation of whether the number of drowned marine mammals and seabirds are below the level considered to reflect sustainable levels.

In addition to benefitting the countries that are members of both HELCOM and OSPAR, namely Denmark, Germany and Sweden, a joint approach on bycatch would also facilitate the national efforts of EU countries to assess the mortality rate from incidental bycatch per species as set by the EU’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

In Copenhagen, it also became clear that more data on small fishing vessels is urgently needed. Unlike larger vessels, small boats are currently not generally required to report on their fishing activities, complicating bycatch assessments.

“Small vessels make up a large part of the fisheries in the Baltic Sea. Due to their lower capacities they tend to operate closer to the coast, which is also where many seabirds forage. This overlap leads to a higher likelihood of bycatch, often amplified by the type of fishing gear commonly used by smaller boats such as gillnets,” said Haldin.

During the workshop, it was suggested that mapping high-risk areas can help guide effective assessment of bycatch.

“Overlaying fishing data with species distribution and abundance can provide a good indication on where bycatch is likely to happen,” said Owen Rowe, the HELCOM project manager on indicators, adding that a solid risk assessment could help minimize bycatch.

The results of the workshop will now be considered at the respective working group levels in HELCOM and OSPAR. At HELCOM, the findings will further feed into the preparations of the next holistic assessment of the Baltic Sea, HOLAS III.

See the WS documents

HELCOM publishes report on noise sensitivity of animals in the Baltic Sea

The recently published HELCOM report “Noise sensitivity of animals in the Baltic Sea” shows how marine mammals, fish and diving birds may react to underwater sound in the Baltic Sea.

“In the past few years, HELCOM has been keen on understanding how underwater noise impacts the different Baltic Sea animal species,” said Marta Ruiz, the HELCOM expert on underwater noise and co-author of the report.

In 2013, the HELCOM members had agreed in Copenhagen that “the level of ambient and distribution of impulsive sounds in the Baltic Sea should not have negative impact on marine life.” The report is a direct response to that announcement.

A first at the Baltic Sea scale, the report identifies species which may be impacted by noise, based on the hearing sensitivity, threat status and commercial value of the animals as well as the impact of noise and the availability of data.

Seals and harbour porpoises are particularly affected by noise due to their high hearing sensitivity. These species rely heavily on hearing throughout their entire life such as for geolocation, communicating or mating, and excessive noise may lead to behavioural changes and physiological stress.

According to the report, “spatial distribution of a species is important when considering the potential risks of impacts from noise.” The report therefore provides a prioritized list of noise sensitive Baltic Sea species and highlights their distribution, to map biologically sensitive areas which also consider periods of biological significance for those species. These areas and the list of species are expected to be updated whenever more data becomes available.

Supported by the HELCOM coordinated and EU co-financed BalticBOOST project, the report is part of the flagship publication series of HELCOM, the Baltic Sea Environment Proceedings (BSEP) that have been running since the ratification of the first Helsinki Convention in 1980.

The HELCOM report “Noise sensitivity of animals in the Baltic Sea” is now publicly available as BSEP n° 167.

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.

Nature conservation and monitoring of the Baltic Sea’s ecosystem take centre stage in Copenhagen during STATE & CONSERVATION 9-2018

​Nature conservation and monitoring of the Baltic Sea’s ecosystem were the focus of attention during the  (STATE & CONSERVATION 9-2018). The meeting was held in Copenhagen from 22 to 26 October 2018.During the event, it was agreed to broaden the workplan for the , notably on the follow-up of  (BSAP) measures, red-listed species and their link to specific habitat features, and non-indigenous species, among others.In regards to  (MPAs), the participants endorsed the establishment of a regional MPA management network under the auspice of HELCOM. The management network is intended to function as a platform for managers across the region, to share experiences and best practices.In Copenhagen, Denmark, Estonia, Finland and Sweden furthermore presented their plans for designating new MPAs. HELCOM was the first regional seas convention in the world to reach the target of 10% of its total marine area to be covered by MPAs in 2010. Increasing the ambition level, where scientifically justifiable, HELCOM seeks to achieve 10 percent MPA coverage for every Baltic Sea sub-basin by 2020.  Baltic sea species were also addressed at STATE & CONSERVATION 9-2018, notably the , a cousin of the dolphin. Measures to minimize bycatch, one of the biggest threats to harbour porpoises, were discussed. Currently, only about 500 of these marine mammals are left in the Baltic Proper, a sub-basin of the Baltic Sea where they used to occur in large numbers.On Baltic sturgeon – one of the regionally extinct species on the  – an action plan for its reintroduction, recovery and protection was endorsed by STATE & CONSERVATION 9-2018, a first step for its final adoption by the HELCOM countries in 2019.The meeting participants also expressed their concern about the low numbers of ringed seal in the Gulf of Finland and called for increased efforts to conserve the species. At STATE & CONSERVATION 9-2018, several guidelines on monitoring the state of the Baltic Sea were also in principle endorsed, notably on dissolved oxygen in seawater and determining heavy metals in sediments. Monitoring the state of the Baltic Sea is key to understanding how the ecosystem reacts to the current measures for a healthy sea.Pressures on the Baltic Sea were also discussed, notably marine litter and underwater noise. On the latter, it was highlighted that more efforts are needed, specifically on determining threshold values. Underwater noise is one of the emerging pressures on the Baltic Sea environment.Norbert Häubner and Marie-Louise Krawack were elected as co-Chairs of the  for the next term until 2020, respectively chairing the monitoring & assessment, and biodiversity & nature conservation components of the group. They replace the previous co-Chairs Penina Blankett and Urmas Lips.

​Nature conservation and monitoring of the Baltic Sea’s ecosystem were the focus of attention during the Ninth Meeting of the HELCOM Working Group on the State of the Environment and Nature Conservation (STATE & CONSERVATION 9-2018).

​HELCOM State of the Baltic Sea report: despite improvements, the Baltic Sea is not yet in a good state

The recently updated HELCOM State of the Baltic Sea report is now , providing a complete insight about the ecological state of the Baltic Sea and the pressures affecting it. Overall, despite improvements, the sea is not yet in a good state, with eutrophication causing the major stress.Approved by all , the report is based on verified scientific evidence stemming from a recently concluded HELCOM assessment – the , or HOLAS II. It is the most comprehensive baseline currently available on the Baltic Sea.”The report holds a wealth of information about the ecological state of the Baltic Sea and the pressures affecting it, making it an important knowledge and decision-making tool for environmental policy makers, researchers and Baltic Sea stakeholders such as industries and businesses,” said Lena Bergström, the HELCOM HOLAS II Project Coordinator who led the publication of the report.For the first time, economic and social analyses (ESA) and the evaluation of cumulative impacts have also been included in the assessment, to help quantifying the benefits we get from the sea and the economic losses due to inadequate ecological status. “We gain a lot from the Baltic Sea: food, jobs, recreational activities among others. But the report also shows that our actions have a big impact on the ecological state of the sea,” said Bergström, further stressing on the correlation of healthy Baltic Sea resources and human welfare.According to the report, improvements are seen in the reduction of inputs of nutrients and hazardous substances into the Baltic Sea. The progress made so far shows that concerted Baltic Sea regional collaboration leads to tangible results.However, the ecological objectives set by the  seeking to attain a healthy Baltic Sea by 2021 have not yet been attained.The major pressure on the Baltic Sea remains eutrophication, affecting 97 percent of the waterbody. The current total losses attributed to eutrophication – excessive growth of algae that upsets the sea’s ecosystem – are estimated to be in the range of EUR 3.8 to 4.4 billion annually for the region.Plastic pollution – especially from microplastics –, pharmaceutical residues, underwater noise and effects from climate change are some of the current additional pressures.The report also finds that the Baltic Sea’s biodiversity is not in a good state. Fish stocks, marine habitats and mammals such as the harbour porpoise and the ringed seal are particularly affected.More actions are needed to improve the Baltic Sea’s environmental status. “It is very clear what needs to be done,” and who chaired the HOLAS II Core Team, the international HELCOM group preparing the report. “We need to work on implementing the Baltic Sea Action Plan and the further actions that have been agreed upon in the .”The  (BSAP) is the region’s strategic tool to attain a healthy Baltic Sea by 2021, focussing primarily on eutrophication, hazardous substances, biodiversity and maritime activities. Essentially based on the findings of the report, efforts are currently underway to update the BSAP beyond its due date in 2021. Go to the report:   — For immediate releaseFor more information, please contact:Dominik LittfassCommunication Secretarymedia(at)helcom.fi 

The recently updated HELCOM State of the Baltic Sea report is now publicly available, providing a complete insight about the ecological state of the Baltic Sea and the pressures affecting it. Despite improvements, the sea is not yet in a good state.

State of the Baltic Sea: Interview with Maria Laamanen

 Maria Laamanen is the Head of the Finnish Delegation to HELCOM and works at the Finnish Ministry of the Environment. She answers questions about the process that led to the report.What was your involvement in the State of the Baltic Sea report?I was the chair of the Core Group, which was kind of a steering group for developing the second holistic assessment. What were the main reasons for making the report?HELCOM published its first holistic assessment in 2010 and there was an agreement that there should be another holistic assessment to follow up on the state of the Baltic Sea and effectiveness of . Those contracting parties that are EU members needed this second holistic assessment for implementation of the . Can you tell us more about the process of making the report, how it came together?We started in the end of 2015. When you start a new project, it tends to be at first a little bit chaotic. I think it took one or two meetings that we got a better idea where we are aiming at and how to do it. We had quite lengthy discussions in what areas we are going to address for example relating to the Kattegat and how we should address different themes on the report. We had the example of the first holistic assessment as a basis of our work and the themes of the state of the Baltic Sea Action Plan gave the basic structure to the report. In addition, we decided to go deeper in to the theme of socio-economics of protecting the Baltic Sea because it was important to be able to show what the economic value of the Baltic Sea is and how it relates to a cost of protecting the Baltic Sea. We also improved some of the methods and tools we had, worked on further developing some and worked on the index that we use for assessing cumulative pressures on the sea. We got support from the EU that made it possible to conduct supporting projects for making the State of the Baltic Sea report. During the project, a number of thematic reports were developed, and indicators and data were updated. All of that is published but not all of it is dealt with in detail within the since there is so much material and the report aims to provide an overview. The report pulls together much of the relevant research that has been done and puts it in a simpler form to present it in an understandable fashion. If someone wants to go deeper than the report, one should go to read the thematic reports and check the data from the project.All in all, I am very proud of the report and the wide coverage of issues HELCOM achieved with it.What are the key findings and main outcomes?The State of the Baltic Sea report shows the status of the Baltic Sea in 2011—2016. It shows that we still have not reached an overall good status of the Baltic Sea. Our main challenges relate to eutrophication and changes in biodiversity that partly stem from the harm that eutrophication causes as well as pressures such as changes in fishing and variability in climate. On the other hand, we are going toward better status in many aspects. HOLAS II report trend graphs show for example that we have been able to decrease our loads of phosphorus and nitrogen. From the 1980s—1990s the phosphorus load has been cut by more than half and nitrogen load has been cut by almost a third.In addition, in terms of hazardous substances the situation is getting much better. To some extend our graphs may give a darker view of where we stand with hazardous substances because the criteria are rather tough and if even one indicator which has lower status than the standard for good status is sufficient to yield an overall assessment of the theme as non-good.We have also compiled information about marine litter. However, we have not been able to make assessments of whether the status is good or not because we have not agreed on the technical details of what is the standard for a good status yet.What needs to be done now? How can we achieve a good environmental status for the Baltic Sea?It is very clear what needs to be done: We need to work on implementing the Baltic Sea Action Plan and the further actions that have been agreed in HELCOM ministerial meetings, most recently in March of 2018.Due to some ecosystem related lags in the Baltic Sea, it is clear that we cannot reach a good status on all aspects of the environment by 2021, which is the target year of the Baltic Sea Action Plan. Nevertheless, we have three more years to go to 2021 and we need to use those years well and implement the agreed actions to make the status of the Baltic Sea as good as possible. After that an updated action plan which was agreed to be drafted by HELCOM Ministerial Meeting 2018 should ensure that we reached the good status by 2030.How will the results of the report affect the update of the Baltic Sea Action Plan?The report provides us the baseline information on the status of the Baltic Sea and tells us what are the pressures affecting the status. Wherever we have a non-good status, we need to look in the causes: what pressures we need to address with our measures and where are we with our implementation. After that, we can look into what updated or new measures we might need.The report does not give any specific measures but it points out what is important. For example, it points out that it is crucial that we reach nutrient load reduction targets that we have agreed upon in HELCOM. It is also very important that we enhance cross-sectoral aspects in sectors such as shipping and agriculture. It is important that there is coordination, coherence and cross reading between the different sectors.How will the outcomes affect future actions of HELCOM?Through the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan, for which the report serves as a basis. Through the report, we also have a very detailed and shared view on what the good status of the Baltic Sea means. We have quantified for very detailed technical aspects of the sea what is good and non-good and we have indicators for follow-up. I think that is great starting point. To my knowledge, no other international sea in the world has that. The report can offer an example how international cooperation can provide good knowledge of the state of the sea.What are the implications for the Finnish chairmanship?We have identified the updating of the Baltic Sea Action Plan as our . The State of the Baltic Sea report is very important to us, since it works as a basis for that work.The interview was conducted by Alisa Vänttinen from the Finnish Ministry of the Environment.

Maria Laamanen is the Head of the Finnish Delegation to HELCOM and works at the Finnish Ministry of the Environment. She answers questions about the process that led to the State of the Baltic Sea report.

HELCOM to test first pharmaceutical indicator and focus on improving the Marine Protected Area network

The HELCOM State & Conservation group meeting endorses the first HELCOM pharmaceutical indicator for testingImproving the effectiveness of the network of important marine areas in the Baltic Sea tied to global processes and management of human activitiesThe Seventh Meeting of the HELCOM (STATE & CONSERVATION 7-2017) took place in Sopot, Poland 23–27 October. The Working Group is set up to thake a two-pronged approach, linking topics related to monitoring with biodiversity and conservation issues. The key theme of the meeting was the continuing work to update and further improve the holistic . The initial version of the report was published in June 2017 and gives a comprehensive overview of the health of the Baltic Sea, ranging from physical to biological to social and economic aspects. Most of the assessment results in the report are based on indicators, and the meeting agenda included a draft for a new indicator on the drug diclofenac – the first HELCOM indicator for pharmaceuticals. The meeting endorsed the use of this indicator as a pre-core test indicator, meaning it will be included in the updated report using a descriptive approach, as opposed to a quantitative approach based on decided threshold values. The final version of the report, including final results based on 2011–2016 data, will be released in June 2018.Another step forward was the agreement to focus efforts on further improving the HELCOM Marine Protected Area (MPA) network, specifically the necessity for updating the guidance provided by HELCOM on how MPAs are to be designated and managed. Clearer guidelines are needed in order to better link the MPA network to the planning of human activities at sea (often referred to as Marine Spatial Planning) and to current international commitments, as well as to ensure that the network lives up to its full potential.  Current network of HELCOM Marine Protected AreasParallel to the continued work to improve the effectiveness of the MPA network, the work on marine spatial planning and MPAs will take another major step forward, both in a regional and a global context, at a high-level workshop aimed at describing Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs). EBSAs are special areas in the ocean that serve important purposes to support the healthy functioning and the many services that the sea provides (for more background information, see ). The designation of EBSAs in the Baltic Sea is an important step in linking the region to the global network of areas already identified under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD). The workshop will take place in Helsinki on 19 to 24 February 2018, hosted by Finland and convened by the Secretariat of the UN CBD in cooperation with HELCOM.The meeting also updated HELCOM Recommendation 19/3 on ‘The Manual for the Marine Monitoring in the Combine Programme of HELCOM’ and HELCOM Recommendation 24/10 ‘Implementation of Integrated Marine and Coastal Management of Human Activities in the Baltic Sea Area’, both of which will be submitted to HELCOM Heads of Delegation 53-2017 in December for a decision.. All documents will be public after the meeting.* * *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.HELCOM covers the monitoring and assessment functions as well as nature conservation and biodiversity protection in HELCOM. The group works across the monitoring-indicators-assessment chain for the coordinated development of HELCOM thematic assessment tools, as well as for a coherent holistic assessment of the ecosystems health.* * * For more information, please contact:Jannica Haldin Professional Secretary HELCOM Tel. +358 40 485 5905 E-mail: jannica.haldin(at)helcom.fi ​

HELCOM State & Conservation group meeting endorses the first HELCOM pharmaceutical indicator for testing – Improving the effectiveness of the network of important marine areas in the Baltic Sea tied to global processes and management of human activities