Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission


Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

HELCOM joins the UN 2023 Water Conference and pledges commitments for the Water Action Agenda

This week the UN 2023 Water Conference gathers stakeholders from all sectors in New York to create global momentum to accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: ensuring the sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.  

HELCOM takes part in a side event Source-to-sea collaboration: A game changer for the whole water cycle on Thursday 23 March at 17:00 EST (23:00 EET), when Lotta Ruokanen joins a panel discussion on Preparing the foundations for source-to-sea governance. The side event is livestreamed on UN Web TV.

The main outcome of the conference is the Water Action Agenda, which is a collection of water-related voluntary commitments undertaken by governments, the United Nations system, other intergovernmental organizations, NGOs and civil society organizations, and many other actors to accelerate progress in the second half of the Water Action Decade 2018-2028 and second half of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

HELCOM has pledged three commitments for the Water Action Agenda, including:  

You can browse all commitments here.

Thinking outside the box at the Baltic Stakeholder Conference 2023

This year’s Baltic Stakeholder Conference (BSC2023) was held last week on 9 March 2023, with the aim of harvesting ideas from stakeholders around the sea – and beyond – for accelerating the implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan.

More than 200 participants from the public, the private and nonprofit sectors all sharing an interest in achieving a healthy Baltic Sea registered for the online event.

The programme included presentations and discussions on awareness raising, municipal level implementation, private sector cooperation and financing, encouraging the participants to brainstorm outside-the-box solutions for both long-standing and emerging challenges.

The online event was hosted by Latvia, which currently holds the chairmanship of HELCOM.

All presentations given at the conference as well as the memo including the session summaries are available on the BSC2023 website.

FAQ: HELCOM and the “strategic pause” – what has been going on?

Almost a year ago, on 4 March 2022, a strategic pause of HELCOM was announced. What does that mean in practice?

On 4 March 2022, against the background of the still ongoing geopolitical crisis, the German Chairmanship of HELCOM issued a statement declaring that the European Union and the Contracting Parties to the Helsinki Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area that are Member States of the European Union (H 9) unanimously agreed that they could not currently engage in business as usual with the Russian Federation in the context of HELCOM.

Therefore, the Chairmanship, in agreement with the H 9, suspended all official meetings of HELCOM bodies and meetings of project groups with Russian involvement under the HELCOM umbrella with immediate effect. This concerned all HELCOM Working Groups, Expert Groups, and other subsidiary bodies of the Commission, as well as the HELCOM projects. The meetings were not cancelled, but rather postponed until further notice.

The suspension has been prolonged until further notice under the current Latvian Chairmanship of HELCOM. However, it does not imply that HELCOM as such has ceased operations.

Has HELCOM been doing anything since?

Since the declaration of the strategic pause in March of last year there have been no official meetings of HELCOM bodies, but HELCOM has remained operational and continues to work for the protection of the Baltic Sea environment. HELCOM activities, such as the implementation of the 2021 Baltic Sea Action Plan and the third Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS 3), are on track and envisioned timelines are being observed. There is neither an interruption nor a delay in HELCOM operations.

Is Russia still a part of HELCOM?

Yes, the Helsinki Convention remains in force and Russia is still a Contracting Party to the Convention.

Survey on expanded plastics (EPS/XPS) from buoys, floats or docks, including pontoons

Please take a moment to answer this survey by 1 June 2023, especially if you represent the plastic industry, environmental protection agencies and/or the fisheries sector.

The answers will help develop buoys, floats and docks, which do not release expanded polystyrene (EPS) and other problematic materials to the marine environment, as a part of implementing the HELCOM Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter.

The completion of the survey will take ca 20-30 minutes.

Thank you for your contribution!

Improving HOLAS 3 advocacy: please answer to a short survey by 28 February 2023

HELCOM Secretariat wants to be more targeted and effective in advocating the forthcoming Third holistic assessment of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS 3), by collecting information on different key target groups.

HELCOM prepares holistic assessments of the state of the Baltic Sea at regular intervals, to track progress on the effectiveness of measures and actions, created to improve the state of the sea.

📌 Please answer to this online survey to give your input:

📌 Answering the survey will take 2-3 minutes. Please provide your replies by 28 February 2023.

📌 Feel free to share the survey extensively with your colleagues or any relevant networks.

Help us improve the protection of the Baltic marine environment! 
We appreciate your help very much.


Mock Employee
Johanna Laurila

Communications Advisor
+358 647 3996

New results on improving the state of the Baltic Sea are tailored for both knowledge-gap and policy needs

HELCOM BLUES Project had its Final Conference online last week and the memo, as well as all presentations and the recording of the Conference, can be now accessed at the project site.

Recording of the BLUES Final Conference

New results regarding Baltic Sea biodiversity, marine litter and underwater noise, as well as effective regional measures addressing various pressures affecting the sea, were presented, including key messages for both science and policy makers. Few new HELCOM indicators have been created within the Project, as well as further developing the existing ones.

Most parts of the project have been designed so that they can be utilized straight by the forthcoming HELCOM Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS 3). The work also closely links to other processes related to good environmental status (GES) in the Baltic Sea, such as the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MFSD) and the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP).

Good environmental status, or GES, and a Baltic Sea in a healthy state has been at the core of the BLUES project. “GES is has become a buzzword, but it is important to remember that underpinning the work to reach good status of the environment as part of various policies, is the reality that our society is part of the environment. GES is not external to our own existence and wellbeing but something that has a direct effect on us”, reminded the manager of the project, Jannica Haldin, in her remarks at the end of the Conference.

BLUES Final Conference web page

Save the date: Baltic Stakeholder Conference on 9 March 2023 – Think outside the box!

Implementing the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP), aiming for a healthy Baltic Sea, is a demanding – but feasible – task. We need all sectors on board in reaching each one of the ambitious targets, which cover a very wide range of topics.

The Baltic Stakeholder Conference 2023 aims to speed up the work and send an emphatic call for action. We want to harvest all the best ideas from the stakeholders around the sea – and beyond – for accelerating implementation and finding solutions for both long-standing and emerging challenges, in sharing the most amazing examples and in inspiring others.

We need to think outside the box and get creative!

Save the date: 9 March 2023

Registration will open in January 2023

Dumped munitions are on the (round)table in Kiel

News release by CBSS and HELCOM

Experts met in Kiel to advance on the issue of dumped munitions submerged in the Baltic Sea

To tackle the explosive issue of dumped munitions in the waters of the Baltic Sea, about 40 leading experts from the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) met at a roundtable event in Kiel, Germany from 12 to 13 December 2022.

The objectives of the roundtable were to establish a common understanding and initiate a multi-disciplinary and BSR-wide dialogue on dumped munitions, including the best options for remedial and removal of what has now become a ticking timebomb.

After the Second World War, around 40,000 tonnes of chemical munitions were discarded in designated dumping areas in the Baltic Sea. An unknown quantity was also disposed of on the way to the dumping sites, making it difficult to pinpoint exact locations.

In addition, an unknown but large amount of conventional ammunition and unexploded ordnance (UXO) such as bombs and mines also lie on the Baltic’s seabed. Experts estimate that about 300,000 tonnes of conventional munitions remain in German marine waters alone. In general, dumped munitions and UXO can be found in the waters of all Baltic Sea countries.

Uncertainties prevail about the state of corrosion of the containers of the warfare material, as some have now been submerged for over 75 years. Of the chemical munitions, it is estimated that the majority contain highly toxic mustard gas agents.

The issue of dumped munitions is one of the priorities under the current German Presidency of the CBSS.  It was also a priority under the German Chairmanship of HELCOM (2020-2022), and also features in the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP).

Co-organised by the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), the German Federal Foreign Office, the German Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein, and the European Union and the Contracting Parties to HELCOM that are Member States of the European Union, the roundtable was attended by leading experts in policy-making, environmental protection, civil protection, large-scale project management and financing.

Dumped munitions and UXO pose a threat to all Baltic Sea countries and users of the sea, not only endangering human health and the marine ecosystem but also putting at risk shipping and fisheries, among other maritime activities.

As active removal of hazardous underwater objects is complex and expensive, and carries a certain risk of accidents, the default decision of many national authorities has been to leave the material on the seabed. However, there is now a growing consensus about the fact that remediation will eventually be inevitable, and that action needs to be taken now.

Save the date: BLUES Final Conference on 17 January 2023

Mark your calendar: all results will be revealed at the Final Conference of the HELCOM BLUES project, held online on 17 January 2023. Registration for the event will be open next week.

Biodiversity, marine litter and underwater noise have been the key focus areas of the project, along with the effectiveness of measures geared towards improving the state of the Baltic Sea and data accessibility. Most of the work will contribute to the next Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS 3), due to release later in 2023.

The Conference will also explain, how the results can and will be used and why they were created. There will be a recording of the event made available afterwards.

Stay tuned for more updates about the programme!

Nefco: Funding opportunity for projects to promote a healthy Baltic Sea

Nefco – Press release 1.12.2022

The Baltic Sea Action Plan Fund opens a new call for proposals aiming to improve the ecological state of the Baltic Sea. The deadline for submitting applications is 6 February 2023.

The Baltic Sea Action Plan Fund (the BSAP Fund) is an early-stage financing mechanism for actions and measures to address environmental issues affecting the Baltic Sea watershed. The BSAP Fund has opened a new call for proposals to speed up the implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP), which includes 200 concrete actions to be carried out by 2030, with the ultimate goal of a healthier Baltic Sea. New project proposals will be accepted until 6 February.

“Accomplishing the ambitious goals of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan requires continuous efforts across all sectors of society, including non-profit foundations, the private sector and financing, the latter also being one of the horizontal actions of BSAP,” says Rüdiger Strempel, Executive Secretary of HELCOM. “The economic benefits of achieving a healthy Baltic Sea ecosystem are evident and backed up by impressive figures. Likewise, we should not forget that the cost of insufficient protection can be substantial and could significantly impair the prospects of the growing sustainable blue economy in the region.”

Concrete projects supporting the Baltic Sea Action Plan

Since the establishment of the BSAP Fund in 2010, a total of 47 projects have been completed. Financed projects have accelerated the timeline for reaching the targets of the Baltic Sea Action Plan as well as the environmental benefits for the Baltic Sea. During the previous financing round, EUR 1.08 million in funding was granted for nine projects.

Sectors financed by the BSAP Fund must address one or several areas highlighted in the Action Plan, including biodiversity, eutrophication, hazardous substances, sea-based activities, marine litter, pharmaceuticals, underwater noise and seabed disturbances. For example, the first forestry project funded by the BSAP Fund focuses on the promotion of continuous cover forestry to reduce eutrophication in the Baltic Sea. Another ongoing project focuses on improving the retention of nutrients in fields to prevent discharge into the Baltic Sea.

“There has been major progress over the past 10 to 20 years regarding the environmental state of the Baltic Sea, but much more still needs to be done. We are looking forward to receiving proposals that, while producing concrete results in line with the Baltic Sea Action Plan, have the potential to be scaled up,” says Dennis Hamro-Drotz, Fund Manager for the BSAP Fund at Nefco.

Apply for funding for Baltic Sea projects by 6 February 2023

Financing can be awarded to commercial or non-commercial actors for projects in the Baltic Sea Region and its catchment area for demonstration purposes, project preparation and development, project implementation and institutional support. Applicants and projects that have previously received funding from the BSAP Fund are also eligible to apply. Read more about the application process and eligibility criteria and find the application form on

How to apply for funding from the BSAP Fund:

  1. Visit and read the eligibility criteria
  2. Download the application form and fill in your project proposal
  3. Send your completed form to by 6 February 2023

For further information, please contact:

Dennis Hamro-Drotz, Senior Investment Manager, Nefco, (+358) 010 6180 641