Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

 

Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

HELCOM and Baltic Earth will hold a media event about climate change in the Baltic Sea on 3 September 2021

To provide more insight into climate change in the Baltic Sea, HELCOM and Baltic Earth will hold a media launch of the soon-to-be published Baltic Sea Climate Change Fact Sheet on 3 September 2021. Open to all journalists and media professionals, the event will be held online.

The Baltic Sea Climate Change Fact Sheet provides the latest scientific knowledge on how climate change is currently affecting the Baltic Sea and about what we can expect to happen in the future. 

During the unveil event, key findings of the Climate Change Fact Sheet will be presented to the media. The authors of publication and Baltic Earth and HELCOM climate change experts will be available for questions.

A complete yet concise and easy to read publication, the publication will help policy makers to include climate change considerations in their work and decisions. More broadly, it also seeks to inform the general public about the effects of climate change in the Baltic Sea.

Jointly developed by HELCOM and Baltic Earth, the Climate Change Fact Sheet contains information about 34 parameters ranging from air and water temperature to marine and coastal ecosystem services, grouped into six different categories: energy cycle, water cycle, carbon and nutrient cycles, sea level and wind, biota and ecosystems, human activities, and services.

More info and registration:

https://helcom.fi/ccfs-launch

The outcome of the HELCOM decision-makers spring meeting is now available

Screenshot of HOD 60-2021

The outcome of the latest meeting of the HELCOM decision-makers, the 60th Meeting of the Heads of Delegation(HOD 60-2021) that was held online from 3 to 4 June 2021, is now available. 

During HOD 60-2021, the HELCOM Heads of Delegations notably fine-tuned the latest draft of the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) that is due to be adopted during the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting 2021 in October of this year.  

Several key documents due to be adopted alongside the updated BSAP were also endorsed at HOD 60-2021, such as the revised HELCOM Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter and the Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy. Others were the Guidelines for Sea-Based Measures to Manage Internal Nutrient Reserves in the Baltic Sea Region, and the Regional Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) Roadmap 2021-2030.

The prolongation of one of HELCOM’s three time-limited main working groups, the Joint HELCOM-VASAB Maritime Spatial Planning Working Group (HELCOM-VASAB MSP WG) was also decided, extending the group’s activity to 2030, in line with the timespan of the Regional MSP Roadmap 2021-2030.

The decision-makers also advanced on the HELCOM Regional Action Plan on Underwater Noise. Addressing both monitoring and the management of man-made underwater noise in the Baltic Sea, the new plan will come in the form of a HELCOM recommendation containing a set of specific actions to be implemented at the regional and national levels. 

The revised HELCOM Recommendation 23/5 on the reduction of discharges from urban areas by the proper management of storm water systems was also adopted during the meeting. 

HOD 60-2021 further provisionally approved the HELCOM RED LIST II project proposal for reviewing and updating the HELCOM Red List of species and the one for habitats. HELCOM RED LIST II is due to run from 2022 to 2024.

HELCOM also welcomed its latest observer, the Nordic Boating Council (NBC), during the meeting. With the NBC, HELCOM now counts 64 observers

Attended by all Contracting Parties and chaired by Lilian Busse, the current chair of HELCOM, HOD 60-2021 further welcomed the new Vice-chair of HELCOM, Andreas Röpke from the Ministry for Agriculture and Environment of the German federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. He takes over from Johannes Oelerich from the Ministry of Energy, Agriculture, the Environment, Nature and Digitalization of the German federal state Schleswig-Holstein. 

On 16 May 2021, we’re celebrating the International Day of the Baltic Harbour Porpoise

The “International Day of the Baltic Harbour Porpoise” is celebrated on the third Sunday in May of each year, to raise awareness of the alarming situation of the harbour porpoise, a rather unique marine mammal. And indeed: it is the only cetacean that calls the Baltic Sea its permanent home. 

In the Baltic Sea region, harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) were actively hunted until the end of the 19th century. Although this practice has stopped, their populations declined rapidly since the middle of the 20th century. They are now heavily impacted by other human pressures, most notably by-catch in fishing gear, but also pollutants, habitat deterioration and disturbance caused by underwater noise. 

The “International Day of the Baltic Harbour Porpoise” (IDBHP) was declared an international observance by the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans in the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (UNEP/ASCOBANS).

Read more about the harbour porpoise:

#HarbourPorpoise

Watch the video address by Rüdiger Strempel on the occasion of the “International Day of the Baltic Harbour Porpoise” 

Three questions to… Lars Sonesten on the Second World Ocean Assessment (WOA II)

Lars Sonesten is the Head of Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). He is the Chair of the HELCOM Pressure Working Group as well as the Chair of the OSPAR INPUT Working Group. He was a member of the WOA II expert team.

What are the benefits of the WOA II for the global ocean?

Lars Sonesten: I think that the main benefit of WOA II is that it takes the alarming status of and our concerns about the seas and coastal areas to the highest political level worldwide. Hopefully, this may inspire national and regional authorities and organisations to increase their efforts to counteract the deterioration of our common seas.

What are the benefits of WOA II for the Baltic Sea region in particular?

First of all, it puts the environmental status of Baltic Sea into a global context, and makes it possible to compare with other sea areas. In addition, I think that our long experience as a regional sea convention in monitoring and joined assessing the status, as well as taking measures to combat the deterioration may serve as a good example for other sea areas.

What was your personal involvement in the WOA II process?

I was involved in writing the two chapters on inputs of nutrients and hazardous substances to the seas (chapters 10 and 11, respectively), with special responsibility on the atmospheric inputs of hazardous substances. As the chairman of HELCOM Pressure and OSPAR Input, I had an interest to share and incorporate as much relevant information as possible that is related to the Baltic Sea as well as the Northeast Atlantic.


About WOA II

The Second World Ocean Assessment (WOA II) assesses the state of the global ocean in the period of 2016 to 2020. Carried out by the UN’s Regular Process with the support of more than 300 experts, it covers environmental, economic and social aspects about the marine environment. While the first cycle (WOA I) focused on establishing a baseline, the WOA II follow-up effort also evaluates trends should support policy development and decision-making at the national, regional and global levels. Several HELCOM experts participated in the development of the WOA II, and the results of various HELCOM assessments such as HOLAS II and PLC were also used in the report.

Read the WOA II reports

Vacancy announcement: Communications trainee

We are currently in search of an enthusiastic trainee to support our communication activities at the international HELCOM Secretariat. The position involves both media production and content development tasks related to HELCOM’s institutional communications and the upcoming HELCOM Ministerial Meeting 2021 (MM2021) that will take place in Lübeck, Germany on 20 October 2021. The trainee will also be involved in communication activities related to the updated HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) that is due to be adopted during the MM2021. 

Applicants with the required expertise and personal qualities are invited to submit their application (consisting of a CV, a motivation letter and a portfolio of recent job-related and or study-related work) via e-mail no later than 15 May 2021.

Survey: Help us improve our HELCOM Map and Data Service

Are you a HELCOM Map and Data Service (MADS) user? Would you like to help us improve our data portals? If so, we would like your feedback! Please take a few moments and take our MADS End-user Survey. The survey will only take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete and will remain open until 14 May. Your responses will be kept confidential. 

Does the HELCOM Map and Data Service meet your needs? Is data easy to find in the Metadata Catalogue? What data layers do you use? How would you improve the user interface? Your response to these questions and more will help us enhance this important data sharing platform. 

The survey has been developed in consultation with partners of the Baltic Data Flows project. The project, co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility of the European Union, seeks to enhance the sharing and harmonisation of data on the Baltic marine environment.     

“Baltic Sea Day” Forum in Saint Petersburg attracts 400 participants, with Baltic Sea Action Plan, hazardous substances, maritime spatial planning and climate change taking centre stage

Attended by about 400 people in person and several hundred more online, the XXI International Environmental Forum “Baltic Sea Day” was held from 23 to 24 March 2021 in Saint Petersburg, Russia as a hybrid event, with a main focus on the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP), both on its current achievements and its now imminent update.  

“The BSAP remains one of the most effective instruments for achieving the HELCOM environmental objectives, offering a long-term vision and strategic orientation for a healthy Baltic Sea,” said the Executive Secretary of HELCOM, Rüdiger Strempel, in his opening plenary address, adding that the update of the plan is already well set to uphold this legacy. The BSAP is due to be updated later this year at the next HELCOM Ministerial Meeting.

Besides the BSAP, several round table sessions were dedicated to other pressing issues such as hazardous substances, and specifically on the modernizing of the HELCOM framework dealing with the issue. HELCOM is currently reviewing its processes on hazardous substances to allow a faster and more efficient response to emerging challenges caused, for instance, by the introduction of new chemicals used in industry and consumer products. The new strategic direction will also enable a better understanding of the full diversity of sources and pathways of contaminants to the Baltic Sea.

During the forum, other key discussions touched on river basin management and marine spatial planning, as well as on the implementation of projects conducted by way of cross-border cooperation.

Close attention was also paid to the adaptation to climate change, notably in connection with the implementation of the Agenda 2030 in 80 cities of the Union of the Baltic Cities (UBC) as well as in light of current trends in Russia.

“Traditionally, the Forum brings together scientists, representatives of government and business, public organizations and everyone who understands their responsibility to future generations for preservation of the unique ecosystem of the Baltic Sea,” said Ivan Serebritsky, the Deputy Head of the Committee for Nature Use, Environmental Protection and Ecological Safety of Saint Petersburg during his opening remarks. 

Held in a hybrid online and in-person format, the “Baltic Sea Day” Forum was coordinated by the Government of Saint Petersburg, Russia and the State Company “Mineral”, with support from HELCOM, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation, and the Committee for Nature Use, Environmental Protection and Ecological Safety of Saint Petersburg.

“There’s a long tradition of HELCOM involvement in the Baltic Sea Day Forum that has been held annually since 2000 in Saint Petersburg,” said Strempel, adding that during its 20-year history, the forum has become a key platform for the environmental dialogue at the regional and global level. 

The BSAP update is well on track at HELCOM 42-2021, the annual meeting of the Helsinki Commission

Screenshot of the HELCOM 42-2021 online meeting

More milestones on the now imminent update of the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) were reached during the 42nd Meeting of the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM 42-2021), held online from 17 to 18 March 2021, keeping the work on the new plan well on track and within the planned schedule. 

second full draft of the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) was presented at the meeting. Further refinements will now take place in the various HELCOM bodies tasked with the drafting of the update. The BSAP, in addition to actions and measures, will now also include a list of environmental hotspots that will need to be resolved as part of the plan’s implementation.

The updated Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) is due to be adopted during the next HELCOM Ministerial Meeting which will be hosted by Germany and is scheduled to take place on 20 October 2021 in Lübeck, Germany. HELCOM Ministerials take place every three years and bring together the competent Ministers from the HELCOM countries and the EU Commissioner for the Environment.

Several key processes and documents due to be adopted alongside the updated BSAP and serving as supporting tools to reach its objectives were also green-lighted for further development at HELCOM 42-2021. These include the draft Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy and the draft Regional Maritime Spatial Planning Roadmap 2021-2030.

The HELCOM Contracting Parties also approved, in principle, the draft HELCOM Regional Action Plan on Underwater Noise. Due to be adopted in June 2021 by the HELCOM decision-makers pending final refinements, the plan will contain a set of regional and national actions for the monitoring and management of man-made underwater noise in the Baltic Sea.

On hazardous substances, the Contracting Parties agreed to modernize the overall HELCOM framework dealing with the issue, to allow a faster and more efficient response to emerging challenges caused, for instance, by a relentless introduction of new chemicals used in industry and consumer products. The new strategic direction will also enable a better understanding of the full diversity of sources and pathways of contaminants to the Baltic Sea.

Serving as a basis for this decision, HELCOM had, earlier in 2020, drafted a strategic regional policy document on hazardous substances, in cooperation with the Stockholm University Baltic Sea Centre and with the support of the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM).

In a bid to improve response to spills in the Baltic Sea, the Contracting Parties also adopted the revised HELCOM Response Manual as well as the draft Multi-regional Marine HNS Response Manual which will replace the current HELCOM Response Manual Volume 2. Both manuals are primarily intended for the authorities dealing with transboundary maritime incidents affecting the waters of several countries and are intended to facilitate the coordination of international response efforts.

At HELCOM 42-2021, the revised HELCOM Recommendation 31E/6 Rev on integrated wildlife response planning in the Baltic Sea area was also adopted. The Recommendation lays out options and strategies for the response to maritime accidents such as oil spills in order to guarantee a swift mobilization of resources to safeguard and attend to affected wildlife.

To improve the protection of habitats and species in the Baltic Sea, the HELCOM Contracting Parties further agreed to cooperate with FAO and IUCN in organizing a regional HELCOM workshop on “other effective area-based conservation measures” (OECMs) in early 2022. OECMs are geographically defined areas other than marine protected areas (MPAs) but that have a positive effect on the conservation of biodiversity.  

The meeting was also an opportunity for the HELCOM Executive Secretary, Rüdiger Strempel, to highlight the achievements of the organization in 2020, noting, in his statement, that “despite the unprecedented challenges posed by the Corona pandemic, HELCOM work progressed largely as planned in 2020.” The HELCOM Activities report for the year 2020 was also presented on the same occasion.

The outcomes of the recently held HELCOM Stakeholder Conference 2021 “Practically Implementing Ecosystem-Based Management” (HSC2021) were also presented. In addition to being one of the HELCOM Voluntary Commitments to the UN Ocean Conference 2021, the HSC2021, held as an online workshop, also offered the possibility to gather considerations on Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) from stakeholders as possible input for the BSAP update process, the HELCOM Science Agenda and HELCOM’s future work on implementation on the ecosystem approach. The results of the HSC2021 are now due to be forwarded to the relevant HELCOM groups for further consideration. 

The HELCOM 42-2021 meeting was chaired by the Chair of the Helsinki Commission, Lilian Busse, Germany and the Vice-Chair of HELCOM 2020-2021, Mr. Johannes Oelerich, Germany. Attended by all Contracting Parties, it was also the first official meeting for the newly appointed Heads of Delegation of Lithuania and Poland and, Ms. Agnė Lukoševičienė from the Ministry of Environment of Lithuania, respectively Ms. Ewelina Fałowska from the Ministry of Infrastructure of Poland. 

First draft of the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan is unveiled to HELCOM decision-makers at HOD 59-2020

Entering a final stretch, another major milestone was crossed last week when the first full draft of the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) was presented to the organization’s decision-makers during the autumn meeting of the HELCOM Heads of Delegation (HOD 59-2020) that took place online.

Building on the existing plan, the updated BSAP is expected to maintain and adapt the current structure and segments that seek to reflect the pressures stemming from land (“Eutrophication” and “Hazardous substances and litter”) and from our activities at sea (“Sea-based activities”) as well as the state of the environment (“Biodiversity and ecosystems”).

In addition, the updated plan is due to feature a segment on horizontal actions having an incidence on the four main segments. These are climate change, monitoring, maritime spatial planning, economic and social analysis, and financing.

Furthermore, all measures and actions contained in the new plan are intended to be implemented by 2030 at the latest. 

The updated BSAP is expected to be adopted by the Ministers of the HELCOM Contracting Parties during the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting that will be held in Lübeck, Germany on 20 October 2021.

With its set of targets for protecting biodiversity and reducing the pressures affecting the Baltic, as well as its number of concrete measures, the BSAP remains one of the most effective instruments for achieving the HELCOM ecological objectives, offering a long-term vision and strategic orientation for attaining good environmental status in the Baltic. 

The original plan, adopted in 2007, can be credited with significantly reducing inputs of nutrients and hazardous substances, improving the protection of biodiversity, and boosting cleaner and safer shipping practices. 

At HOD 59-2020, the decision-makers also approved a draft of the HELCOM Science Agenda that is meant to support the implementation of the BSAP and other HELCOM processes, by identifying the scientific knowledge needs related to the Baltic marine environment and which are foreseen to surface in the next 10 years.

Meant to be launched alongside the new BSAP, the first draft of the Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategywas also presented during the meeting. In a bid to curb eutrophication, the strategy seeks to minimize the run-off of nutrients, stemming mainly from agricultural sources such as fertilizers, to the Baltic Sea by keeping them in a closed loop. 

More good news: the Heads of Delegation announced the removal of HELCOM Hot Spot n°42, the Riga wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), from its list of pollution sites

More than EUR 200 million were invested in the plant over the last 20 years, leading to a significant reduction of the discharges of nutrients and hazardous substances to the Baltic via the Lielupe river. The WWTP is now complying with EU regulations and almost fully meets the more stringent HELCOM targets on water purification. 

The Riga WWTP had been added to the list of significant pollution sites due to insufficient treatment of wastewater and a large share of untreated municipal wastewater being released to the environment. 

The HELCOM Heads of Delegation further approved the draft of a key regional instrument for fighting pollution incidents at sea, the Joint Inter-Regional Marine HNS Response Manual which will replace the current HELCOM Response Manual Volume II. A guideline for addressing and coordinating response to major accidents such as oil or chemical spills, the manual is expected to be adopted during the next meeting of the Helsinki Commission in March 2021.

On shipping, and more specifically on the management of ballast water which is a major source of introduction of alien species to the Baltic Sea, the Heads of Delegation further approved the revised HELCOM-OSPAR Joint Harmonised Procedure on the granting of exemptions under International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (JHP).

The procedure is supported by an online decision tool that gives shipping professionals a quick overview of the risk of introducing non-indigenous species (NIS) through ballast water between two ports. Co-developed with OSPAR and recently updated, the tool covers both the North and Baltic Seas.

The collaboration between HELCOM and OSPAR comes at a time when both organizations are actively seeking to strengthen their partnership, a fact particularly welcomed during HOD 59-2020.

Experts from the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina also presented their recent discussion paper on underwater archaeology “Traces under Water”, highlighting the mutual benefits of protecting both the marine environment and underwater heritage from the common pressures arising from ammunitions, ghost nets and eutrophication.

Chaired by Germany, HOD 59-2020 was attended by participants from all Contracting Parties, by Observers from Baltic Farmers’ Forum on Environment (BFFE), Baltic Sea Advisory Council (BSAC), Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference (BSPC), Baltic Sea States Subregional Co-operation (BSSSC) & CPMR Baltic Sea Commission, Coalition Clean Baltic (CCB), Cruise Lines International Association Europe (CLIA Europe), Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP), Global Water Partnership Central and Eastern Europe and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and by invited guests.

Baltic Sea Action Plan: HELCOM revamps its tool for tracking implementation progress

HELCOM has recently refreshed its HELCOM Explorer tool, an online and open-access database displaying the progress by the HELCOM countries made on the implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP).

“With the freshly revamped HELCOM Explorer, it’s now much easier to see where we currently stand on the progress we’re making on the agreed actions and measures under the BSAP,” said Susanna Kaasinen who coordinates BSAP activities at HELCOM.

The BSAP is HELCOM’s strategic programme of actions and measures for achieving good environmental status in the Baltic Sea, addressing eutrophication, hazardous substances, maritime activities and biodiversity. 

The BSAP contains both regional actions that are to be implemented jointly by all HELCOM Contracting Parties such as creating new HELCOM Recommendations, as well as national ones that are to be implemented at the country-level such as incorporating the provisions of a HELCOM Recommendation into relevant national legislation or guidelines.

Updated on a regular basis, the HELCOM Explorer tool shows the implementation status of both joint and national actions. It also presents the status of selected HELCOM Recommendations as well as on related commitments made at the HELCOM Ministerial Meetings in 2010, 2013 and 2018.

In October 2020, about 70 percent of the joint regional actions and 26 percent of the national actions from the Baltic Sea Action Plan were reported as being fully implemented by all HELCOM Contracting Parties. 63 percent of the national actions were reported as partly accomplished.

The BSAP is due to be updated in 2021.