Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

 

Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Radioactivity in the Baltic Sea keeps declining

​​The HELCOM expert group on radioactive substances has reviewed this week the latest scientific reports for the year 2015 revealing that for the first time, in the Southern Baltic in the Southern Baltic, Caesium-137 concentrations in surface waters are below the pre-Chernobyl target level of 15 Bq/m3. The decrease is most likely due to the exceptionally large saline water inflow from the North Sea into the Baltic Sea reported in December 2014*. The radioactivity levels have for long been declining in all the sub-basins of the Baltic Sea but this is the first time that the results have dropped this low, at Flensburg Fjord and Bornholm deep in the Southern Baltic.​Levels of radioactivity in the Baltic Sea are measure from e.g flounder. Photo: Petra KääriäIn their meeting in Uppsala, Sweden, the Expert Group on Monitoring of Radioactive Substances in the Baltic Sea (MORS EG) has also discussed the next thematic assessment of long-term changes in Baltic Sea radioactivity 2011–2015, with delivery now scheduled at 2017 as this will match the purposes of HOLAS II, the Second holistic Baltic-wide assessment in 2018. Further, the group will update the HELCOM core indicator “Radioactive substances: Caesium-137 in fish and surface waters” with latest data for the year 2015. In addition, the group has also reviewed and quality assured the annual data submissions to the HELCOM and , containing an unbroken time series from 1984 and 1952, respectively. The meeting, chaired by the MORS EG Chair Ms Tarja Ikäheimonen, was participated also by International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), notifying the addition of HELCOM MORS environmental data to IAEA’s .  ​ *.   . All documents are 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. * * * For more information, please contact:Tarja K. Ikäheimonen Chair of HELCOM MORS Expert Group Environmental Radiation Surveillance and Emergency Preparedness STUK – Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority Tel. +358 400 811 254 E-mail: Tarja.Ikaheimonen(at)stuk.fi Johanna Laurila Information Secretary HELCOM Tel: +358 40 523 8988 Skype: helcom70 E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi

For the first time, at two monitoring sites, Caesium-137 concentrations in surface waters are below the pre-Chernobyl target level.

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.

HELCOM discusses threatened species and next holistic assessment

​​​​How can threatened species of the Baltic Sea be better protected by coastal states is one major point of discussion at the HELCOM State and Conservation group’s starting today in Schwerin, Germany. Countries will now start planning their conservation activities which aim to reduce the number of Baltic Sea species categorized as threatened according to the HELCOM , following HELCOM Recommendation () was adopted last month. Plans will also now be put into motion to develop an associated HELCOM Recommendation to protect red listed biotopes and habitats in the Baltic Sea.Protecting species and habitats of the Baltic Sea moves ahead in the HELCOM State & Conservation meeting. Metsähallitus Natural Heritage Services/Essi Keskinen.This week coastal country representatives, observers and researchers will discuss a number of other issues related to Baltic nature conservation and to monitoring and assessing the state of the sea. Many are directly related to – the Second Holistic Assessment of the Ecosystem Health of the Baltic Sea to be released mid-2017.  HOLAS II will incorporate thematic assessments on biodiversity, eutrophication and hazardous substances as well as address topics such as marine litter, underwater noise, and non-indigenous species. The assessment will be based on tools for which the practical rules for assessing the different thematic areas will be discussed at the meeting. The status assessments will build on HELCOM core indicators that provides quantitative definitions of Good Environmental Status (GES). GES definitions for some indicators will be presented for endorsement at this week’s meeting.  The working group continues to review and revise joint HELCOM monitoring which are essential to the coordination of monitoring by countries in the shared sea area. HELCOM started such systematic monitoring decades ago and a new round of guideline updates will be discussed at this meeting. The process is expected to be completed and guidelines included in the comprehensive HELCOM within 2016. The five-day meeting will also cover a session on underwater noise. HELCOM, through EU co-financed BalticBOOST project, is currently identifying the spatial and temporal distribution of sound sensitive species and habitats in the Baltic Sea which will form the basis for developing principles for defining Good Environmental Status (GES) for noise. Furthermore, a proposed monitoring programme for underwater noise will be discussed, building on the outcome of the Life+ project BIAS. The meeting will convene on 11-15 April 2016 and is chaired by Penina Blankett and Urmas Lips, Co-Chairs of the HELCOM Working Group on the State of the Environment and Nature Conservation.  All documents will be public after the meeting. * * * Note for editorsHELCOM State & Conservation covers 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 coherent holistic assessment of the ecosystems health. 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

HELCOM countries will now start planning their conservation activities which aim to reduce the number of Baltic Sea species categorized as threatened

HELCOM adopts Recommendation on sustainable aquaculture

​​​HELCOM Annual Meeting with delegates from the nine Baltic coastal states and the EU has today adopted the on sustainable aquaculture. The Recommendation gives tools for the Baltic Sea region to develop this growing sector based on the Best Available Technologies (BAT) and Best Environmental Practices (BEP) and it will be followed by expert work to jointly develop a menu of BAT/BEP descriptions.HELCOM Annual Meeting is the highest decision-making body of the Helsinki Commission. In addition, three other HELCOM Recommendations were adopted by the Meeting, helping to improve the status of the Baltic marine environment: Recommendation on Conservation of Baltic Sea categorized as threatened, Recommendation on Safety of winter navigation with updated part on correspondence between Ice Classes (), as well as Recommendation concerning co-operation and coordination of based monitoring and procedures for granting permits. How is the region doing in more detail in implementing Baltic Sea Action Plan was one Meeting topic
(see summary graph below),​ through a new online explorer demonstrated to the participants. The portal, expecting launch in April, will show the level of accomplishment by the HELCOM countries of a selection of actions agreed on in HELCOM.  Among the many topics of the 2-day Meeting were maritime spatial planning and supporting the of the Joint HELCOM-VASAB Working Group, being a unique set-up and good example of sea-basin cooperation. The delegates also addressed possible improvements for following up the nutrient input reduction scheme and countries in their annual targets for Phosphorus and Nitrogen; as well as reviewed the requested information on activities in the Gulf of Finland and the situation of HELCOM – significant sources of pollution in the Baltic Sea. Russian Federation discussed one of the Hot Spots (No. 23) and was requested to provide more information on the situation and planned activities around the Krasny Bor landfill on the next HELCOM Pressure Working Group meeting in April 2016.  Moreover, the meeting the Roadmap for a Baltic Sea NECA, with potential to significantly reduce Nutrient inputs from ships to the Baltic Sea. Meeting outcome will be available next week. All meeting documents are available in ​New online explorer will soon be opened for browsing how the countries are doing in protecting​ the marine environment.-12 ms-rteFontSize-1″>-12 ms-rteFontSize-1″> * * * 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​

HELCOM Annual Meeting with delegates from the nine Baltic coastal states and the EU has adopted four HELCOM Recommendations.

Battle against marine litter is a shared affair

​​​​More push for the actions against marine litter in the Baltic Sea is a key purpose of the HELCOM Marine Litter Stakeholder , held today in Helsinki, Finland . As litter is a complex issue and ranges from micro particles from cosmetics to ships’ waste management and fisheries practices, reducing it requires work from a wide range of stakeholders. For collecting many viewpoints, HELCOM will host today a mix of selected representatives of governance, industry, research and civil society, to find new ways for more effective leadership in the battle on litter in the Baltic. ​ In June 2015, thirty concrete tasks to combat litter in the Baltic Sea were agreed on by all the Baltic coastal states as well as the EU, and listed in the HELCOM Regional on Marine Litter. The present status of implementing the actions of the Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter is the underpinning of the Conference – over half are having leads and/or co-leads by the coastal states, while many remain without a guiding force. Fight against marine litter is not a solitary affair. The involvement of G7, United Nations, European Union and HELCOM sister entities such as OSPAR and Mediterranean Action Plan, among others, are indispensable for the success in reducing marine litter. Marine litter is a global and local problem with far-reaching implications also in the Baltic Sea. Marine litter impairs marine organisms, threatens human health and safety, and has socio-economic costs. There are many land- and sea-based sources of marine debris but the problem can be largely traced to general production and consumption habits. Among other factors, household disposal of waste material, management of waste water as well as shipping discharges play a significant role in the well-being of marine ecosystems around the world. The Conference will be between 10:00 -16:30 (CET+2hrs). The audiences are encouraged to participate through Twitter, #litterconf. Afterwards all materials, including video clips, will be available at the . The summary conclusions of the Conference will be presented tomorrow on 10 March to the 37th HELCOM Annual Meeting. * * * Note for editors 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 LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi

More push for the actions against marine litter in the Baltic Sea is a key purpose of the HELCOM Marine Litter Stakeholder Conference, held today in Helsinki, Finland.

Baltic Sea under pressure: getting the bigger picture

​​​​​How big impact do the different pressures have on the Baltic marine environment is one key task for the regions’ top experts, continuing their​ today in Helsinki, Finland. The assessment of human activities and pressures, including their cumulative effect, is an important part of the forthcoming Second Holistic Assessment of the Ecosystem Health of the Baltic Sea (), released by HELCOM in its initial form in mid-2017. The work to develop the pressure and impact assessment is coordinated by the new, EU co-funded HELCOM .The previous Pressure and Impact Indices were launched in 2010. Construction, noise, nutrients, bottom trawling and litter are only a handful of different factors affecting the sea and the wellbeing of its species and habitats. That is why it is important to bring together all the dozens of available spatial data sets relevant to human uses and pressures acting on the Baltic Sea ecosystem, in order to rate the cumulative impact on the marine environment. As part of this process, the experts will assess the spatial distribution of the pressures, and link to biodiversity among different part of the Baltic Sea. Since the previous Holistic Assessment of the Ecosystem Health of the Baltic Sea (, 2010), there is considerably more data sets available as well as advanced methodology. The Second Holistic Assessment of the Ecosystem Health of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS II) will give a comprehensive update on the overall environmental status of the Baltic Sea and its pressures, and evaluate progress in relation to the goals of the Baltic Sea Action Plan. It will be developed so that the results will support reporting under the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) by those HELCOM members also being EU member states. While interlinking the ongoing work on HELCOM indicators and assessments, e.g. on biodiversity, hazardous substances, eutrophication and climate change, the Holistic Assessment will also incorporate economic and social analyses to assess the effects of environmental degradation as well as actions to improve ecosystem health. The Workshop will be chaired by Mr. Samuli Korpinen, Finland, under the HELCOM TAPAS project. . All document 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. * * * For more information, please contact​Lena BergströmProject Coordinator (HOLAS II)HELCOMTel: +358 400 803 428Skype: helcom71E-mail: lena.bergstrom(at)helcom.fi Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70​​E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi

How big impact do the different pressures have on the Baltic marine environment is one key task for the regions’ top experts, continuing their workshop today in Helsinki, Finland.

Clear-cut HELCOM online system ready for assessing Baltic nutrient pollution

​​​An efficient and more transparent is now set up by the coastal countries for producing assessments online on Baltic-wide eutrophication, a major environmental threat to the sea. The new automatized process, exceptional in
environmental assessments, combines and calculates monitoring data such as on
nutrients, into resulting indicators and assessments.​ Moreover, the system incorporates an online review by nominated experts for improved quality check and transparency. The HELCOM assessment system, hosted by and developed together with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (), will provide straight access to up-to-date maps and country-wise data, to be released as part of the HELCOM Second Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea in 2017. Screenshot from the new Dataview. ​The new, more detailed information on the level of eutrophication in different basins of the Baltic Sea will enable much faster overall assessment of the status of the sea and the distance to Good Environmental Status, helping to make accurate management decisions for the benefit of the marine environment. The system pilots similar automated procedures foreseen by HELCOM for assessments of hazardous substances and biodiversity planned.  The online , established for testing the new assessment process, is published for demonstration purposes and may be of interest by experts and managers in other sea areas affected by eutrophication in Europe and beyond. The site includes a of the data submissions, data stations and test indicator products, providing for documentation of the review. The dataview also shows details on country-specific submissions of data on eutrophication-related parameters – phosphorus, nitrogen, chlorophyll-a and Secchi depth – as well as assessment products. The automated assessment workflow is the main deliverable of the finalized 2-year HELCOM . Other outcomes include a concise assessment explaining all the protocols of the assessment, to be used by experts involved in the assessments as well as any party interested in learning details about the assessment methodology. The project has also developed forthcoming HELCOM on eutrophication and improved updating the existing ones; proposed how to combine assessment of coastal and open waters stemming from different legislative frameworks; proposed for improved usage of satellite data along with the in-situ samples collected from monitoring points; and suggested a method on harmonizing coastal and open-sea assessments, among others.Links​ * * *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:Vivi Fleming-LehtinenProject Manager, EUTRO-OPER (until end of 2015)Finnish Environment Institute – SYKETel: +358 50 5984238E-mail: vivi.fleming-lehtinen(at)environment.fi Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi​

An efficient and more transparent work flow is now set up by the coastal countries for producing assessments online on Baltic-wide eutrophication.

First coordinated survey of Baltic wintering waterbirds started

​​​​​​​​​​For the first time, an effort is being made by seven Baltic coastal countries to coordinate the counting of all the waterbirds wintering in the Baltic Sea, a long-term challenge as monitoring of the highly mobile animals requires scheduled cooperation between the states. The shallow waters of the Baltic Sea are important for wintering waterbirds such as diving ducks, divers and alcids.Long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis) migrates from the Arctic to the Baltic Sea winter. Photo: Bettina Mendel. Monitoring of birds requires international coordination in order to procure reliable estimates of the number of birds wintering in the Baltic Sea. If countries were to conduct surveys in different months, the same individual might be counted in several countries which would impair the abundance estimation.​Describing the Baltic-wide bird distributions and abundances will be attempted jointly for the first time during January and February 2016 by Estonia (University of Life Sciences), Denmark (Aarhus University), Finland (SYKE), Germany (Kiel University), Latvia (Latvian Ornithological society), Poland (various institutes) and Sweden (Lund University). The coordinated survey is conducted from aircrafts or ships, covering a pre-defined network of monitoring transect lines. Successful monitoring requires good weather conditions with low winds and good visibility.Reliable information on the number of waterbirds wintering in the Baltic Sea, as well as the distribution of the birds at sea are important for conservation efforts and for assessing the status of the marine environment. The Baltic Sea is an important wintering ground for species that breed in the region as well as for species breeding in the high Arctic.The long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis) is one species for which the Baltic Sea is a critically important wintering ground, and it is listed as threatened under the International and the HELCOM Red List (). The long-tailed duck migrates from the Arctic breeding grounds to the Baltic Sea where it congregates in flocks in the open sea. Monitoring these dense aggregations of birds provides the best information about the population abundance, which has seen alarming decrease in recent years.The need for a coordinated survey effort as well as coordinated handling of data on seabirds has been identified as an important area of cooperation in HELCOM, which has recently adopted joint monitoring guidelines.The planning of the coordinated survey on wintering seabirds among the above partners started over a year ago. The aim is to continue the collaboration in the future, regardless of different monitoring schemes in the countries involved.During January and February 2016 the collaborating partners will report about progress with the survey across the Baltic. Frequent updates of the map, indicating which areas have been surveyed will be made available.Figure. 1: Planned monitoring transects to be covered during the seabird survey in winter 2015/2016, mostly referring to aerial surveys (ship-based surveys in Poland). * * * 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:Lena Avellan Project Manager HELCOM Tel: +358 40 162 2054 E-mail: lena.avellan(at)helcom.fi Ib Krag PetersenSurvey CoordinatorDepartment of BioscienceAarhus University, DenmarkTel: +45 242 11614E-mail: ikp(at)bios.au.dk

Seven Baltic coastal countries have just started scheduled and coordinated counting of all the waterbirds wintering in the Baltic Sea.

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.

Effectiveness of Baltic seal conservation reviewed

​​​Progress of the Baltic Sea countries in conserving seals is being discussed by the  of HELCOM Seal expert group continuing today in Berlin, Germany. The group, consisting of experts, administrators and interest groups, will also discuss the new HELCOM core indicators for assessing the status of mammals in the Baltic Sea. Other major meeting items are the updating of national seal management plans, as well as following up on the effectiveness of the HELCOM Recommendation on conservation of seals (). Photo: ShutterstockMarine mammals of the Baltic – grey seal, ringed seal, harbour seal and harbour porpoise – are reflecting well the health status of marine ecosystem. They are on top of the food web and indicate the state of the environment. They also accumulate many poisonous substances and are affected by human disturbance such as incidental catch.  Whether the countries are conserving seals effectively and meeting the standards agreed in the HELCOM Recommendation (27/28-2) are also addressed by the meeting. Such assessment is to be done every five years and the next round is in 2016.   Linked to the Recommendation follow-up, new assessment tools – HELCOM core indicators on mammals – are soon to be launched.  The core indicators must be regularly updated and this will be provided for by improved data and data flow on Baltic seals, another item of the meeting. Moreover, the mammal indicators have been designed so that they feed into the next HELCOM Holistic Assessment of the Ecosystem Health of the Baltic Sea.   Furthermore, national management plans for seals will be reviewed by the meeting. Such plans are needed as part of the measures taken to safeguard the long-term viability of the Baltic seal populations, as agreed in the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan.  . All documents will be public after the meeting. * * * Notes for editorsHELCOM Ad Hoc Seal Expert has met annually since 2006 and consists of researchers, administrators and interest group representatives from the entire Baltic Sea region. The Seal Group has established a common scientific basis on what is a healthy status of the Baltic seals populations, and it regularly follows up on the management plans and other actions as required by the HELCOM requirements. The work is carried out in three teams: population size, distribution, and health teams. 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: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

Progress of the Baltic Sea countries in conserving seals is being discussed by the meeting of HELCOM Seal expert group continuing today in Berlin, Germany.