Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission


Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Proud past, promising future – join the HELCOM 50th anniversary celebrations online on 25 April

Save the date! We are happy to invite the entire extended HELCOM family to join online the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Helsinki Convention and HELCOM. Latvia, currently holding the Chairmanship of HELCOM, will host the celebration event on 25 April 2024 in Riga, starting at 14:00 (CET), with many special guests.

Ministers of the Environment of Latvia and Finland, Inga Bērziņa and Kai Mykkänen, will open the event.

An impressive list of keynote speakers, representing major stakeholder organizations, will also honour the celebrations with their presence. The names of the representatives will be announced soon – stay tuned!

The 50th anniversary celebrations will be preceded by the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting of the Contracting Parties in the morning of 25 April 2024, and a side event organized by Coalition Clean Baltic and WWF, Waves of Change – Accelerating action and finance to save the Baltic Sea, will take place in Riga the day before.

The guests invited en site include representatives of the HELCOM Contracting Parties, observers and other friends of HELCOM past and present. The special programme reflects the achievements of the first 50 years of HELCOM while looking forward to future challenges. Please find the preliminary programme on the dedicated web page.

In 2024, it will be 50 years since the original Helsinki Convention was signed.

HELCOM, or the Helsinki Commission, was established at the same time, for the purposes of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area – in essence, to ensure that all the coastal states pursue the many commitments presented for a healthier Baltic Sea. It was a historical moment, as environmental concerns were only starting to shift closer to the mainstream thinking.

HELCOM is a true pioneer in international environment protection. As the awareness of the massive challenges, particularly climate crisis and biodiversity loss, has since significantly risen, we have much to share about cooperation through changing geopolitical situations.

Join us for a full year of celebrations! We are proud to have come this far.

Nefco: The Baltic Sea Action Plan Fund grants EUR 1 million to 10 new projects to improve the health of the Baltic Sea

Many of the new projects funded by the Baltic Sea Action Plan Fund (BSAP Fund) have a special focus on marine biodiversity. With Sweden’s latest contribution of SEK 4.5 million, the BSAP Fund continues to support the implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan.

Total funding from the latest BSAP Fund call for proposals amounts to EUR 1 million, which will be distributed to 10 approved projects in Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Poland. The new projects focus on forestry, nutrient discharge, hazardous substances and sea-based activities. The majority of the new projects, six out of ten, will contribute positively to biodiversity.

Read the full Nefco news article

HELCOM to collaborate with the Save the Baltic Sea campaign

Save the Baltic Sea is a hiking expedition and an environmental campaign around the Baltic Sea covering eight countries, taking place in 2024. The main organizer is a Lithuanian NGO Už švarią Lietuvą (“For a clean Lithuania”). HELCOM will be one of the official partners in the campaign, along with the EU4Ocean Platform, the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Lithuania and a network of scientific institutes and non-governmental organizations from the eight countries.

The purpose of the expedition is to further improve marine conservation culture in the Baltic Sea countries, inform citizens about the state of our marine ecosystems, and bring together local communities and stakeholders to break down barriers in halting marine pollution.

During the expedition, a team of activists will hike almost 6000 kilometers around the Baltic Sea in 9 months. In each of the countries the team will cross, they will gather local communities and stakeholders for ocean literacy activities and living labs – collaborative workshops that will aim to catalyze collective action in mitigating pollution in the Baltic Sea.

The campaign aims are aligned with HELCOM’s Baltic Sea Action Plan, especially HT27: “Increase knowledge exchange and awareness raising to promote public and stakeholder support and interest in understanding the state of the Baltic Sea and threats to its environment as well as promote opportunities for the general public to participate in citizen science” and HL7: “Launch educational and information campaigns by 2025 to raise public awareness regarding responsible handling of hazardous substances in household chemicals and articles to prevent their release into the environment.”

The expedition will set off in March 2024 from Lithuania. More information about the campaign and related activities can be found here:


Johanna Laurila
HELCOM Communication Advisor, +358 40 6473996

Laura Stukonytė
Save The Baltic Sea science engagement coordinator

Register now for Baltic Stakeholder Conference 2024

The Baltic Stakeholder Conference 2024 will take place on 29 February 2024,
and serve as the inaugural stakeholder conference for PROTECT BALTIC

Registration is now open for the Baltic Stakeholder Conference 2024 as well as the parallel youth event that will take place online during the conference. Both of these events will take place on 29 February 2024.

The Baltic Stakeholder Conference 2024 is set to bring together experts, policymakers, and enthusiasts to discuss and shape the future of the Baltic Sea region. 

Official registration for the event is now open, and will close on 31 January 2024, so secure your spot now.

Register here

During the registration process, attendees are encouraged to select one workshop session for the morning and another for the afternoon, so that their experience can be tailored based on their personal interests and preferences.

The event will be hybrid (in-person and online), with the in-person component taking place at:

Hanaholmen, Swedish-Finnish Cultural Centre, Hanasaarenranta 5, 02100 Espoo, Finland

The in-person event promises an engaging platform for discussions, networking, and collaboration among stakeholders invested in the well-being of the Baltic Sea region.

In parallel with the main conference, a special youth event is also scheduled for individuals aged between 16-22. 

This youth-focused event aims to provide a platform for the younger generation to actively participate in conversations and contribute to discussions that will shape the future of the Baltic Sea. 

Register for the Youth Event

Don’t miss the opportunity to be part of this significant conference. Sign up now. Your voice matters!

Register now for our Youth Event

For more information, check out the event page.


Paul Trouth
Communications Coordinator, PROTECT BALTIC 
+358 447106202

This news item was originally posted here.

PROTECT BALTIC site: hub for Baltic Sea biodiversity protection

Today, we unveil the official PROTECT BALTIC website, a significant milestone in the Horizon Europe project. PROTECT BALTIC is a collaborative effort with support from 17 dedicated partner organizations and coordinated by the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM). The project aligns with the European Union’s Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the EU mission to Restore our Ocean and Waters, which underscores the need for united actions to protect and revitalize marine and freshwater ecosystems and preserve their rich biodiversity. 

PROTECT BALTIC is a direct response to the urgent need to expand marine protected areas in the Baltic Sea to 30%, with 10% under strict protection. 

Three decades of concerted efforts have resulted in 14-17% of the Baltic Sea under protection, with minimal strict protection measures in place. The region now faces dual challenges, with the clock ticking to double the current coverage by 2030. However, efforts should not solely be placed on expanding the network, but on improving it.

With this urgency and scope in mind, the project has a crystal-clear mission: to employ strategic planning and ecologically relevant approaches for enhancing and optimizing the existing network of marine protected areas. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to deliver positive biodiversity outcomes.

To ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of forthcoming efforts, PROTECT BALTIC is committed to:

  • Developing a robust infrastructure and knowledge base for a data-driven, ecoregion-scale evidence base to inform strategic planning, measures, and long-term management.
  • Establishing a regionally agreed protection optimization framework to enhance governance and transboundary cooperation, including mutually agreed protection and restoration objectives.
  • Identifying the current baseline of protection efforts across the entire sea basin.
  • Pinpointing gaps in protection and restoration efforts by comparing the desired state with the current status.
  • Offering concrete, replicable support to empower Baltic Sea member states to strategically fill these gaps, harmonize their actions, and realize the full potential of protection and restoration efforts.

The launch of the website represents a significant step for the project, serving as a dynamic and comprehensive hub for a wide range of resources, information and tools that are integral for the project’s mission. The website will be regularly updated with the latest developments, progress reports, and news related to PROTECT BALTIC so that users have access to real-time information on the project’s progress and achievements.

For detailed information about the project and its progress, visit the newly launched website:


Paul Trouth
Communications Coordinator, PROTECT BALTIC 
+358 447106202

This news item was originally posted here.

MEDIA RELEASE: Regional assessment highlights ongoing challenges for the Baltic Sea ecosystem

Helsinki, 31 October 2023 – The Baltic Sea is facing increasing challenges due to climate change and biodiversity degradation driven by eutrophication, pollution, land use, and resource extraction, according to a report published by the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) today.   

The State of the Baltic Sea 2023 summarises the main findings from the third HELCOM holistic assessment (HOLAS 3), which provides a comprehensive overview of the Baltic Sea’s ecosystem health during 2016 to 2021.

Little to no improvement of the Baltic Sea environment occurred during the assessment period, the report finds. Key pressures on the Baltic Sea ecosystem include eutrophication, pollution from hazardous substances, land use and overfishing, but several other pressures also add to the total impact. However, measures to reduce pressures on the Baltic Sea are working, when they are implemented.

Jannica Haldin, HELCOM Deputy Executive Secretary and the overall coordinator of the assessment said:

“The findings serve as a sobering reminder that the Baltic Sea faces critical challenges stemming from human activities. HOLAS 3 represents the most comprehensive overview of the state of the Baltic Sea environment ever produced, and this knowledge must now be translated into informed action. The importance of transboundary cooperation, a shift towards genuinely environmentally sustainable practices and long-term commitment cannot be overstated.”

HELCOM’s 2021 Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) is a cornerstone in addressing these challenges and remains highly relevant. The plan includes measures that HELCOM countries have agreed on to strengthen biodiversity, reduce environmental pressures, and improve the overall health of the Baltic Sea ecosystem. The BSAP aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, underscoring the need for coordinated action.

Key highlights from the report:

  • Environmental deterioration: Despite efforts to improve the Baltic Sea environment, the assessment period (2016-2021) showed little to no improvement. Several indicators, including pelagic and benthic habitats, fish stocks, waterbirds, and marine mammals, did not meet their threshold values, with some showing a worsening trend.
  • Impact of human activities: Pressures on the Baltic Sea ecosystem include eutrophication, pollution from hazardous substances, overfishing, and habitat destruction. These pressures are adversely affecting the ecosystem, leading to a decline in the overall state of biodiversity.
  • Cost of inaction: The poor environmental status of the Baltic Sea clearly impacts a wide range of ecosystem services on which we depend, affecting the profitability of fisheries and tourism for example. Achieving good environmental status in national marine waters by 2040 has been estimated to be worth 5.6 billion euros per year to the people around the Baltic Sea.
  • Regional measures: The assessment reveals that when regional measures are implemented, they have a positive impact on the environment. Reductions in nutrient inputs and hazardous substances, as well as actions for biodiversity conservation, have shown signs of success in some parts of the Baltic Sea.
  • Climate change: Climate change is increasingly affecting the Baltic Sea region, leading to rising water temperatures, reduced ice cover, and more extreme weather events. This amplifies the need for measures to enhance ecosystem resilience and mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.
  • Ecosystem-based management: The assessment emphasizes the importance of ecosystem-based management and transformative changes across various socioeconomic sectors interacting with or affecting the Baltic Sea environment.


Notes to editors

About HELCOM holistic assessment (HOLAS): A comprehensive holistic assessment on the state of the Baltic Sea is conducted once every six years. The reports result from collaborative efforts among HELCOM member states, scientific experts, and organizations dedicated to the protection of the Baltic Sea. They serve as a cornerstone of HELCOM’s work and policymaking, assisting in the monitoring of the implementation and the effectiveness of the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP).

The third HELCOM holistic assessment (HOLAS 3) focuses on the years 2016-2021 and includes results at various levels of detail, including monitoring data, indicator reports and thematic assessments. HOLAS 3 represents the most comprehensive assessment of the Baltic Sea environment to date. State of the Baltic Sea summary report highlights and synthesizes the main findings of the various assessment products.

About HELCOM: The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission – also known as the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) – is an intergovernmental organisation (IGO) and a regional sea convention (the Helsinki Convention) in the Baltic Sea area. A regional platform for environmental policy making, HELCOM was established in 1974 to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution. The Helsinki Convention has 10 Contracting Parties which are also the members of HELCOM. These include all Baltic Sea states and the European Union. The headquarters of HELCOM, the Secretariat, is in Helsinki.


Eeva Nyyssönen
Communication Secretary, HELCOM
+358 40 647 3996


State of the Baltic Sea 2023 report

Registration is now open for the State of the Baltic Sea 2023 report launch event

The third HELCOM holistic assessment (HOLAS 3) provides a comprehensive overview of the Baltic Sea’s ecosystem health during the assessment period from 2016 to 2021.

On 31 October 2023, HELCOM will host an online event to mark the release of the much-awaited State of the Baltic Sea 2023 summary report. The summary report consolidates and integrates results from various assessment products within HOLAS 3, including five thematic assessments and the indicator reports.   

The event will commence with a presentation of key findings from HOLAS 3, followed by a panel discussion on the results and their policy implications, titled ‘Now that we know, where do we go?’. The discussion will be moderated by Gun Rudquist from the Baltic Sea Centre, Stockholm University. Audience is invited to submit questions for the panellists and HELCOM experts.

Speakers at the event include Rüdiger Strempel (HELCOM), Jannica Haldin (HELCOM), Lone Munk Søderberg (Danish Ministry of Environment), Dominic Pattinson (OSPAR), Michel Sponar (European Union) and Johanna Källén Fox (WWF).

For more information, please visit the event page. Advance registration is required. The event will also be recorded and made available online for those who cannot attend live.


Eeva Nyyssönen
Communication Secretary
+358 40 6473996

HELCOM to co-host a workshop on submerged munitions in the Baltic Sea at this year’s EUSBSR Annual Forum

The 14th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) will take place in Riga on 4-5 October 2023. The theme of this year’s forum is Safe and Sustainable Baltic Sea Region for Future Generations, with special focus on climate affairs, green energy and future generations.

As part of the forum’s programme, HELCOM will co-host a workshop with Pomorskie Region and the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) on Submerged munitions in the Baltic Sea – environmental, security and other challenges on 4 October at 15:00-16:30 EEST. HELCOM’s Executive Secretary Rüdiger Strempel will be one of the speakers in the workshop.

Additionally, HELCOM will showcase its work related to maritime spatial planning (MSP) and hazardous substances at the expo area of the Networking Village on 5 October, which will take place at the Small Guild.

For more information about the forum and HELCOM’s presence there, please visit the event page.

Vacancy: Professional Secretary (WG GEAR, WG BioDiv, WG Fish) at the HELCOM Secretariat 

Applications are invited for the post of Professional Secretary at the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission – Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) Secretariat to coordinate the work related to three subsidiary bodies of HELCOM: Working Group on the Implementation of the Ecosystem Approach (WG GEAR), Working Group on Biodiversity, Protection and Restoration (WG BioDiv) and Working Group on Ecosystem-based Sustainable Fisheries (WG Fish). Closing date: 4 Dec 2023

The post, which is based in Helsinki, Finland, will become vacant on 1 July 2024. For the full vacancy announcement, go here.

Launching the new HELCOM Map and Data Service

The new HELCOM Map and data service (MADS) website is now live. Thanks to the Baltic Data Flows project, the HELCOM MADS has undergone a significant refresh of its user interface and visualization functionalities. Improvements include a modern and responsive user interface along with new widgets such as query layer and export map.

The new HELCOM MADS with improved data layering and viewing functionality.

As with the previous MADS website, datasets are grouped under eight different ‘services’ that can be accessed using the free text search tool or by browsing the services layer tree (shown in the screenshot below). Multiple data layers can be added to the map explorer for conducting unique queries and analyses.

The data is also available in vector and raster formats and accessible as a service (ArcGIS Rest, OGC WMS, WFS). Each dataset is linked to the INSPIRE-compliant HELCOM Metadata catalogue record, where the data can be downloaded. 

The free text search bar and services layer tree navigation tool.

Following the selection of one or multiple datasets, the data is displayed on the map. The ‘map layers info’ box allows the further exploration of data through the selection of widgets, as shown in the screenshot below. In addition, up to 12 background maps can be selected to obtain the most relevant visualization for the user’s needs. Maps generated by users can then be printed or exported in various file formats.

Ideas for improvements were collected via user survey at the start of the project in April 2021. We are now collecting feedback on the new HELCOM MADS website to inform the project KPIs. Please take the survey here and tell us what you think (it will take less than 5 minutes).

Written by Matthew Richard, who is the Project Coordinator for the Baltic Data Flows project. This post was originally published on the Baltic Data Flows project website.