Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

 

Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

​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

First version of the HELCOM ‘State of the Baltic Sea’ report is now available

​The comprehensive HELCOM overview of the state of the Baltic Sea follows up on the status of the Baltic Sea environment, saying that management is improving but that the environmental objectives of the Baltic Sea Action Plan will not be reached in time.The ‘State of the Baltic Sea’ assessment, now made available as a first version for consideration, is an outcome of a large scale collaboration among Baltic Sea countries. It provides a scientific evaluation of the environmental status of the Baltic Sea during 2011-2015, and assesses pressures and impacts from human activities, as well as social and economic dimensions, in the entire Baltic Sea.The summary report, and its underlying material, can be accessed via its . The next step will be to subject it to a regional consultation carried out by HELCOM. The final report will be published by June 2018, and will include one additional year of monitoring data.The assessment is based on an extensive set of materials, including the HELCOM core indicators and Baltic-wide maps, covering aspects such as eutrophication, contamination, marine litter, underwater noise, fishing, hunting, and effects of habitat loss. The assessment of benthic and pelagic habitats, fish, marine mammals, and birds indicate that biodiversity status is inadequate for most assessed species, and that continued efforts to support biodiversity are of key importance.The results are made available for use in analysing progress in relation to the goals of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan, namely: to achieve a good environmental status in the Baltic Sea. They will also provide background for negotiations in the next HELCOM Ministerial Meeting to take place on 6 March 2018 in Brussels under the European Union chairmanship of HELCOM.Additionally, the assessment results are available for national consultation in EU Member states, forming a regional umbrella report for reporting under the EU Marine Strategy Framework directive. The assessment can also provide a baseline for future work to reach UN Sustainable Development Goals.The ‘State of the Baltic Sea’ is a regionally coordinated assessment and a major undertaking of all Baltic Sea countries as well as the European Union. The results are the outcome of the committed work of HELCOM experts and national representatives, whom have developed and worked to improve a regionally agreed on monitoring and assessment system, used as a shared knowledge base for developing Baltic Sea environmental management.The results and materials underlying the assessment can be accessed at .* * *Note for editors:The State of the Baltic Sea assessment is carried out by the  (2014–18). The project develops common concepts and methods for the status assessment based on core indicators, creates and tests the tools for aggregated results, and performs assessments at a regional scale. The development of the assessment methods is supported by other projects, including a number of EU-co-financed projects.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 .HELCOM Heads of Delegation, nominated by the Contracting Parties to the Helsinki Convention, which are the nine Baltic coastal states as well as the EU, usually meet twice a year. The highest decision-making body of HELCOM, the Annual Meeting, convenes usually in March. Approximately every three years the Commission meets at .* * *For more information, please contact:Lena BergströmHOLAS II Project CoordinatorHELCOME-mail: lena.bergstrom(at)helcom.fiTel: +358 40 080 3428Jannica HaldinProfessional Secretary for Gear and State and Conservation groupsHELCOME-mail: jannica.haldin(at)helcom.fiTel: +358 40 485 5905​​

The comprehensive HELCOM overview of the state of the Baltic Sea follows up on the status of the Baltic Sea environment, saying that management is improving but that the environmental objectives of the Baltic Sea Action Plan will not be reached in time.

HELCOM delegates discuss the key Baltic Sea goals of 2017

​​​​​​​Greenlighting key tools and indicators for State of the Baltic Sea report a major topic in HELCOM Heads of Delegation meeting this week High-level segment on ocean-related Sustainable Development Goals to take place on 28 February 2017   Delegations representing all Baltic coastal states as well as the EU this week at HELCOM headquarters to discuss and decide on the best measures for improving the Baltic marine environment. HELCOM holistic assessment 2017, a major discussion point by HELCOM delegates this week, will also rely on the upgraded tools to assess the themes of biodiversity, hazardous substances and eutrophication. Photo: Metsähallitus NHS/Niina Kurikka.The meeting participants will face major decisions required for completing HELCOM State of the Baltic Sea report (), first results due in mid-2017. Draft Recommendations on sewage sludge and conservation of underwater biotopes and habitats are expecting agreement. The 2-day meeting will also discuss the final plans for the HELCOM high-level segment on ocean-related Sustainable Development Goals, taking place on 28 February 2017.The delegates, observers and other stakeholders attending the meeting in Helsinki, Finland will seek final unanimity for few main components of the State of the Baltic Sea report (HOLAS II, full name: Second Holistic Assessment of the Ecosystem Health of the Baltic Sea). The final shape of used for the assessment must now be agreed on. The holistic assessment will also rely on the upgraded tools to assess the themes of biodiversity, hazardous substances and eutrophication, improved since the previous Holistic Assessment of 2010, and two of them are expecting final blessings from the delegations this week.One of the many HELCOM outcomes from the past six months include the thoroughly revised HELCOM Response Manual Vol III to Pollution Incidents on the , which the delegates are invited to endorse. Moreover, an agreement is expected on a regional implementation plan for the IMO Water Management Convention, entering into force globally in September next year. Compilations of pollution load data () have been an integral part of HELCOM assessment system since 1987. The next edition, PLC-7, is expecting approval for being prepared by 2020 and covering the data from 1995 until 2017. HELCOM will host a high-level as a part of its Annual Meeting in the end of February 2017 and the agenda will now be discussed. The session will focus on how to achieve ocean-related UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in the Baltic Sea and progress in addressing the regional environmental challenges. The many aligning targets and goals of the UN and HELCOM are the underlying factor for the session. HELCOM is one of 18 Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans in the world working together under the umbrella of UNEP and instrumental in the work on SDGs.The 51st Meeting of the Heads of Delegation will be held on 14-15 December 2016 in Helsinki, Finland and chaired by HELCOM Chair Ms Marianne Wenning, DG Environment, European Union. . All documents will be public after the meeting. * * * Note for editors:An update on the overall state of ecosystem health in the Baltic Sea is underway. Improved tools as well as more comprehensive approaches will be applied in the State of the Baltic Sea report (full name: Second Holistic Assessment of Ecosystem Health in the Baltic Sea, ). This major assessment will assist the region’s environmental managers and decision-makers who are to base their work on sound, up-to-date knowledge of the status of the sea. The State of the Baltic Sea report will develop common concepts and methods for the status assessment based on core indicators; create and test the tools for aggregated results and, finally, perform assessments at a regional scale. Importantly, the assessment will also include a socio-economic analysis, about the costs of a deteriorating marine environment, as well as a selection of optimal measures for improving the status of the sea. The first results will be released in mid-2017 and updated during the following 12 months. * * * HELCOM Heads of Delegation, nominated by the to the Helsinki Convention which are the nine Baltic coastal states as well as the EU, usually meet twice a year. The highest decision-making body of HELCOM, Annual Meeting, convenes usually in March. * * * 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​

Greenlighting key tools and indicators for State of the Baltic Sea report a major issue in HELCOM Heads of Delegation meeting this week.

Countries advance State of the Baltic Sea report

​​​The second HELCOM holistic assessment – State of the Baltic Sea – will be the common basis for governments for further measures to protect the seaKey components of the State report are the focal topics for a HELCOM meeting this weekA new HELCOM Recommendation on biotopes, habitats and biotope complexes and HELCOM monitoring guidelines are among other topics of the 5-day meeting in Tallinn, EstoniaAs a part of the sizeable endeavour by HELCOM to assess the environmental status of the entire Baltic Sea by 2017, many necessary building blocks are discussed by the HELCOM State and Conservation Working Group this week. The convenes in Tallinn, Estonia for advancing the next HELCOM holistic – State of the Baltic Sea – , finalizing the Recommendation on biotopes, habitats and biotope complexes, and reviewing and upgrading HELCOM monitoring guidelines, among others. Integration tools bring together the many parameters to provide sensible and reliable assessments of the state of the Baltic Sea marine environment. Photo: Metsähallitus NHS/Essi Keskinen​ Integration tools for biodiversity and hazardous substances have been developed intensively by HELCOM this year. The 2017 ‘State of the Baltic Sea’ builds on a vast amount of HELCOM quality assured data and indicator results. Tools, designed to address specific environmental issues, are needed to bring together the many parameters to provide sensible and reliable assessments of the state of the Baltic Sea marine environment. The tools integrate the results of indicators such as on distribution of marine mammals, abundance of birds, size of zooplankton, and quality of benthic organisms, to arrive at the status of biodiversity. The meeting this week will work on the final form of these tools.  For hazardous substances, the concentration of dioxins, PCBs and other contaminants and their effects are considered. The HELCOM approach to assess the pressures and impacts on the marine environment – the Baltic Sea Impact Index – has also been upgraded this year with new data and special attention given to the spatial extent of impacts.  A key issue for the meeting is to agree on a set of HELCOM core and the associated definition of Good Environmental Status. During 2016, countries leading the indicator development and expert groups have worked towards making the core indicators operational.  In addition, a draft new HELCOM Recommendation on biotopes, habitats and biotope complexes will be elaborated at the meeting, with the view to have it ready for approval by the main HELCOM delegates in December 2016.  Coordinated monitoring guidelines, a prerequisite for making coherent and comparable regional assessments, continues to be scrutinized by the Working Group and fully reviewed and revised HELCOM monitoring guidelines are anticipated to be ready by mid-2017. The Fifth of the Working Group on the State of the Environment and Nature Conservation, (STATE & CONSERVATION 5-2016) will be convened on 7-11 November 2016 in Tallinn, Estonia. The meeting is chaired by the co-Chairs of the group, Ms Penina Blankett, Finland, and Mr. Urmas Lips, Estonia. All documents will be public after the meeting.  * * * Note for editors 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. HELCOM State & Conservation covers monitoring and assessment functions as well as nature conservation and biodiversity protection at HELCOM. It works across the monitoring-indicators-assessment chain to develop HELCOM thematic assessment tools and conducts the coherent holistic assessment of the ecosystem’s health. The next State of the Baltic Sea assessment – or HOLAS II – will give a comprehensive overview of the ecosystem health of the Baltic Sea. The first results are scheduled for release in mid-2017 and finalized by mid-2018. The update on the overall state of the entire Baltic Sea is worked on by the (2014–18), which develops common concepts and methods for the status assessment based on core indicators; creates and tests the tools for aggregated results and, finally, performs assessments at a regional scale. The development of the assessment methods is supported by other projects such as and BalticBOOST.  is an EU co-financed project coordinated by HELCOM. The main objective of the project is to improve regional coherence in the implementation of marine strategies through improved data flow, assessments, and knowledge base for development of measures. The project (2015–16) will develop assessment tools and set up data arrangements to support indicator-based assessments of the state of and pressures on the Baltic Sea.   * * * For more information, please contact:Ulla Li ZweifelProfessional SecretaryHELCOMTel. +358 46 850 9198Skype: helcom64E-mail: ullali.zweifel(at)helcom.fi Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi​​​​

The second HELCOM holistic assessment – State of the Baltic Sea – will be the common basis for governments for further measures to protect the sea.

New HELCOM assessment on networks of marine protected areas

​​​​​​​Overall the protection of the Baltic Sea through HELCOM MPAs is substantial – the coverage of the areas​​ is at first-rate 12 %​​Adequacy and connectivity of the MPA network are however not at sufficient levels for meeting the targets set for ecological coherence in the Baltic Sea region “>The Baltic Sea has in terms of areal coverage the highest protection of all European marine regions; 12% of the HELCOM area is designated as marine protected areas () thus, the target set by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity of conserving at least 10% of coastal and marine areas has been reached in the Baltic Sea.> >>The network of coastal and marine protected areas in the Baltic Sea, or HELCOM MPAs, is however not yet ecologically coherent, concludes the new HELCOM . A coherent network, an achievement only possible through cooperation between the Baltic Sea countries, would ensure that the MPAs in the Baltic Sea are providing protection beyond the individual sites. Satisfactory coherence is important as it would contribute significantly to the biological diversity in the Baltic Sea and to favourable status of habitats and species, which are both major goals for HELCOM.>> Two aspects considered by the report regarding ecological coherence of the MPAs are at acceptable level: representativity and replication. Representativity, or areal representation, refers to the different types of geographical features and broad scale habitats, and replication to a set of indicative species and biotope complexes and broad scale habitats. Improvements are however needed especially in two aspects of ecological coherence of the MPAs: adequacy, which considers the quality of the network, and connectivity, which measures how well the network supports migration and dispersal of species.  Networks of marine protected areas in the Baltic Sea. The assessment also proposes a number of actions for improving the network of HELCOM MPAs. They include, for instance, enhancing the protection of threatened species, biotopes and biotope complexes within the MPAs, as the reporting by countries so far indicates surprisingly few threatened species and biotopes as being protected in the sites. In addition, the target for areal coverage of MPAs has not yet been reached in all sub-basins or in waters beyond territorial waters.   The assessment is based on data in the , renewed and launched in late 2015.  The ecological coherence assessment follows up on the commitments made in a HELCOM Recommendation () in 2014, in which the Contracting Parties have agreed to establish an ecologically coherent and effectively managed network of coastal and marine Baltic Sea protected areas.  Print copies of the Ecological coherence of the marine protected area network in the Baltic Sea (BSEP 148) can be requested from HELCOM Secretariat. * * *Note for editorsThere are currently already 174 covering almost 12% of the marine area, making the Baltic Sea one of the first regional seas in the world to reach the UN target.  The aim of the coastal and marine Baltic Sea protected areas (HELCOM MPAs) is to protect valuable marine and coastal habitats in the Baltic Sea. This is done by designating sites with particular nature values as protected areas, and by managing human activities within those areas. Each site will have its unique management plan. 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 Ulla Li ZweifelProfessional SecretaryHELCOMTel. +358 46 850 9198Skype: helcom64E-mail: ullali.zweifel(at)helcom.fi​​Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi

The coverage of coastal and marine protected areas in the Baltic Sea, or HELCOM MPAs, is at first-rate 12 % – however the network of MPAs is not yet ecologically coherent.

Does it pay off to protect the Baltic Sea?

​​​​Finding out the economic damages of a deteriorating state of the Baltic Sea is a key task for HELCOM experts this winter, as a part of the holistic due to release in mid-2017. The actions to prevent pollution will likely involve expenses – however the price of a polluted marine environment may be high. The HELCOM workshop this week in Tallinn, Estonia, continued​ ​​​to analyze the benefits of a healthy and thriving Baltic marine environment with a particular focus on examining the cost of degradation. Analyzing the socioeconomic impacts to the health of the Baltic Sea connects two components: the use of marine waters, expected to bring in profits, and the cost of degradation.​ Photo: Maritime Office in GdyniaThe cost of degradation is defined as the consequences to human well-being from the degradation of the marine environment.  It can be assessed based on the benefits forgone or damages resulting from not achieving good environmental status (GES). The workshop discusses the best approach for such estimation – making best use of quantitative and qualitative methods. The HELCOM holistic assessment on the state of and pressures on the Baltic Sea () will be a comprehensive compilation evaluating the overall state of ecosystem health in the Baltic Sea. The first assessment results will be released in June 2017 and the report will be finalized by mid-2018. The process to analyze the socioeconomic impacts of changes in the state of the Baltic Sea connects two components: the use of marine waters, expected to bring in profits, and the cost of degradation. Various national assessments have been performed but a shared evaluation from a regional viewpoint is still missing. The current HELCOM task is to develop a framework and pave way for such a regional analysis. The estimates for the cost of degradation are the most advanced for eutrophication, as there are national estimates in place for each nine coastal country. More indicative evaluations – for instance for biodiversity, food webs and non-indigenous species – can be used to illustrate what is at stake if the state of the Baltic Sea does not improve. In addition, economic indicators are under development which will illustrate the economic importance of the marine environment as well as sectors depending on it. A major intention is to perform the economic analyses together with the assessment of pressures from human activities. This would help explain how the economic sector or activity – including the derived benefits – depends on the state of the sea. The is held on 8-9 September 2016 and chaired by Ms Soile Oinonen, Finnish Environment Centre. It is a part of the , funded by the EU.* * *Note for editors: 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:Ulla Li ZweifelProfessional SecretaryHELCOMTel. +358 46 850 9198Skype: helcom64E-mail: ullali.zweifel(at)helcom.fi Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi​

Finding out the economic damages of a deteriorating state of the Baltic Sea is a key task for HELCOM experts this winter. First results of the HELCOM cost-effectiveness analysis will be launched mid-2017.

Checking up pressures on the Baltic environment

​​​​​​Since most of our activities on land and at sea create pressures on—and changes to—the sensitive marine environment, mapping the extent and impact of these pressures is crucial for a legitimate picture of the state of the Baltic Sea. HELCOM, as a part of the forthcoming holistic assessment of the ecosystem health (), is speeding up work on assessing the impacts from human activities on the marine ecosystem, with a focus on their spatial distribution. A dedicated workshop to address this topic is held this week in Helsinki, Finland, as part of the HELCOM coordinated project, co-financed by EU. Impacts from human activities on the Baltic marine ecosystem, and the spatial distribution of the pressures, is the main focus of the workshop. Photo: Maritime Office in Gdynia The 2-day workshop will discuss the Baltic Sea Impact Index (BSII), first created for the Initial HELCOM Holistic from 2010. The Index is based on data sets that show the spatial distribution of human activities in the Baltic Sea, as well as pressures and ecosystem components. The ecosystem components include for instance the distribution of different fish, mammals and sea birds, as well as the key habitats. The Impact Index takes into account the sensitivity of the ecosystem components (using so-called sensitivity scores) of each assessed pressure. The results will show how key environmental pressures in the Baltic Sea are distributed spatially and where they coincide most strongly with sensitive parts of the ecosystem. In addition to assessments based on the Baltic Sea Impact Index being in focus of this week, the HOLAS II project will look into trends over time in the key pressures and the socioeconomic importance of human activities, as well as evaluate cumulative impacts on the seafloor using indicators.   The workshop to support the development of the Baltic Sea Pressure and Impact index is held on 6-7 September 2016 in Helsinki, Finland and chaired by Samuli Korpinen, Finnish Environment Centre.. All the documents will be public after the workshop.  * * * Note for editorsHELCOM 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. The next HELCOM Holistic Assessment will give a comprehensive overview of the ecosystem health of the Baltic Sea. The first results are scheduled for release in mid-2017 and finalized by mid-2018. The update on the overall state of the entire Baltic Sea is worked on by the HOLAS II project (2014–18), which develops common concepts and methods for the status assessment based on core indicators; creates and tests the tools for aggregated results and, finally, performs assessments at a regional scale. The development of the assessment methods is supported by other projects such as and .​ * * * For more information, please contact:Ulla Li ZweifelProfessional SecretaryHELCOMTel. +358 46 850 9198Skype: helcom64E-mail: ullali.zweifel(at)helcom.fiJohanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi​

HELCOM, as a part of the forthcoming holistic assessment of the ecosystem health (HOLAS II), is speeding up work on assessing the impacts from human activities on the marine ecosystem.

Shared support for the threatened Baltic harbour porpoise

​​This week the harbour porpoise, the threatened and also the only small whale (cetacean) species of the Baltic Sea, gets international attention in a high-level meeting in Helsinki, Finland. HELCOM is represented in the meeting to establish even stronger links with the ASCOBANS Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans. The work between the two organizations has begun in the 1990s. There are less than 500 harbour porpoises left in the Baltic Sea. Photo: Solvin Zankl/Swedish Agency for Marine and Water and Management. HELCOM has contributed long-term to the research and management tools for alleviating pressures on threatened and declining species in the Baltic Sea, also the harbour porpoise, the population of which dropped dramatically in the mid-1950s and is now at under 500 in the Baltic Sea. The top current threats for Baltic harbour porpoise are bycatch in fisheries, environmental toxins and anthropogenic noise.  The HELCOM work related to conserving the harbour porpoise, led by the Seal expert since 2006, has expanded in recent years. One prominent HELCOM area is the work on indicators, as measuring the changes in the environment will help determine the most effective management decisions. The development work of a specific harbour porpoise indicator is ongoing, HELCOM also works at full speed to develop two indicators on : both ambient and impulsive noise. There are also two major HELCOM reports coming soon, about the impact of underwater noise as well as mitigation measures. Cooperation between ASCOBANS and HELCOM has long traditions and it has stayed lively up to today. For instance, the joint HELCOM/ASCOBANS harbour porpoise has been ready and regularly updated for ten years. The new resolutions to be adopted by ASCOBANS this week will be brought to the attention of the relevant HELCOM working groups covering all the Contracting Parties of the Helsinki Convention.* * *Note for editors: 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.  was concluded in 1991 as the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas (ASCOBANS) under the auspices of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) and entered into force in 1994. In February 2008, an extension of the agreement area came into force which changed the name to “Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas”. * * * For more information, please contact:Petra KääriäAssistant Professional SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 630 9933Skype: helcom68E-mail: petra.kaaria(at)helcom.fi Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi

HELCOM reinforces links with ASCOBANS in a high-level meeting this week, discussing key challenges to the declining species.