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.
We are currently in search of an enthusiastictrainee 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.
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.
Project researcher in economic and social analyses to support the third HELCOM holistic assessment of ecosystem health (HOLAS III) in the Methodology Development Project
Please note: recruitment closed
We are currently seeking to recruit an experienced professional and enthusiastic person to strengthen our team at the international HELCOM Secretariat in Helsinki, Finland, as a Project Researcher on economic and social analyses of the marine environment.
The appointment is planned to be full time, starting preferably on 18 January 2021 through the end of the project on 31 March 2022. The monthly salary is 2.800 € per month. Please note that the HELCOM salaries are exempt from Finnish income tax.
The tasks require a background in environmental economics or a corresponding field. Previous expertise and knowledge of ecosystem services, ecosystem accounting, and interdisciplinary work are needed.
The Project Researcher’s task is to implement the activities in the work package on economic and social analysis. The activities include:
developing approaches and collecting information for identifying and assessing marine and coastal ecosystem services to improve the implementation of the ecosystem approach;
developing an approach for conducting a marine ecosystem accounting pilot study for the Baltic Sea to describe and quantify interactions between the economy and marine environment based on recent EU work and existing methods and approaches;
exploring the possibilities to develop indicators for drivers in the Baltic Sea region, for factors that drive changes in human activities and sectors utilizing the marine environment;
developing connections between economic and social analyses and environmental assessments of HOLAS III, and the elements within economic and social analyses.
In a bid to harmonize, harvest and share data about the Baltic marine environment at a regional level, HELCOM launched the Baltic Data Flows project in October 2020.
“With Baltic Data Flows, we will be able to put together the different pieces of the Baltic data puzzle,” said Joni Kaitaranta, HELCOM’s data coordinator who oversees the project.
“There’s already a lot of data on the Baltic scattered out there and there is a long tradition of reporting this data to HELCOM by the Contracting Parties according to data formats developed over time,” observed Kaitaranta.
“By combining the data into a regional data product, we will get a pan-Baltic and holistic perspective, which will not only be useful for research and environmental assessments, but also for maritime spatial planning and blue growth-oriented development,” he said.
Baltic Data Flows will enhance the existing harmonization and sharing of data on the marine environment originating from existing sea monitoring programmes. Extending a previous pilot system by project partners ICES and SMHI, it will do so by harvesting national data on the marine environment in order to produce harmonized, regional datasets in a more automated and efficient way.
The project will also seek to enhance the capacity and ICT infrastructure of the competent national authorities for harmonising and sharing collected environmental monitoring data on the Baltic Sea by supporting development of database platforms.
Baltic Data Flows also seeks to increase capacities on quality control and publication of open data within the national organisations and providers hosting environmental data, notably by promoting the implementation of the FAIR principles stating that data should be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable.
To support wider dissemination of data collected within the Baltic, the harmonised datasets will eventually be harvested to and made accessible via the European Data Portal (EDP) by using DCAT-AP compliant metadata catalogues.
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 Reduction of Pressures from the Baltic Sea Catchment Area (Pressure), the Group on Sustainable Agricultural Practices (Agri) and the HELCOM-VASAB Working Group on Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP WG). The post, which is based in Helsinki, Finland, will become vacant on 1 July 2021.
As of 1 July 2020, Germany has taken over the chairmanship of HELCOM from Finland for a period of two years, setting goals and priorities for combating the threats and pressures impacting the Baltic Sea.
“The overarching goal remains the best
possible protection of the Baltic Sea,” said Svenja Schulze, Minister of the
Environment of Germany, in her
video address introducing the German chairmanship of HELCOM, further adding
that all efforts should also consider aspects of “sustainability, relevance for
the climate and biological diversity, and suitability.”
As is customary for the chairing Party,
Germany has identified several
strategic directions for its chairmanship of HELCOM, focussing on
strengthening marine biodiversity and addressing pressing challenges such as
climate change, munitions on the seafloor and underwater noise.
Germany will also lead the finalization of
the update of the Baltic Seas Action Plan (BSAP) and its implementation, as
well as devote attention to strengthening regional cooperation and ocean
governance. Germany also intends to “make HELCOM fit for the future”, notably by
introducing more resource-saving and efficient working methods.
Lilian Busse from the German Environment Agency (UBA) has been designated by Germany as its Chair for HELCOM. Before joining UBA as Head of the Division on Environmental Health and Protection of Ecosystems, Busse worked at the California Environmental Protection Agency. Overall, she has close to 20 years of experience working on marine environmental protection and related matters.
A particularity of its chairmanship, Germany will, in addition to the Chairperson, also have two Vice-Chairs hailing from the two German federal states bordering the Baltic Sea, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The Vice-Chairs are Johannes Oelerich (Schleswig-Holstein) for the first year, and Andreas Röpke (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) for the second year.
“Germany is taking over the chairmanship as
a team,” said Busse.
The chairing Party usually sets the
strategic directions for HELCOM under its tenure, and convenes and chairs the
meetings of the Helsinki Commission and the Heads of Delegation, the highest
decision-taking bodies in HELCOM. Germany will furthermore host the next
Ministerial Meeting in October 2021.
Updating and implementing the BSAP – making progress on specific requirements;
Trying new solutions for well-known, pressing challenges;
Strengthening marine biodiversity; and
Understanding and responding to climate change and the Baltic Sea.
Prior to Germany, Finland chaired HELCOM from 2018 to 2020 and had set its own priorities on advancing the BSAP update process, the reduction of nutrient inputs, the effects of climate change, and the links between HELCOM and the UN Agenda 2030, especially the integration of SDG 14 in HELCOM processes.
“On the Finnish priorities, we committed to
leading the updating the Baltic Sea Action Plan and to finding common solutions
to formulate an ambitious and realistic updated plan,” said Saara
Bäck, the outgoing Chair of HELCOM, adding that “[we] achieved just
that, with the update process well on track despite the crisis having hit hard
across the entire Baltic Sea region – a feat that I cannot be prouder of and
which I would personally like to thank the entire HELCOM community for.”
Under the Finnish chairmanship, HELCOM
notably agreed on the vision and objectives of its Regional Nutrient Recycling
Strategy, crucial for closing nutrient loops, reducing nutrient surpluses and
avoiding nutrient runoff to the sea – the main cause of eutrophication.
Together with Baltic Earth, HELCOM also
launched the EN
CLIME network to gain a better understanding of how climate change affects the
Baltic, with a view to develop policy responses meant to strengthen the sea’s
The Baltic Marine Environment Protection
Commission – also known as the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) – is an
intergovernmental organization (IGO) and a regional sea convention in the
Baltic Sea area, consisting of ten members: the nine Baltic Sea countries
Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and
Sweden, plus the European Union. A platform for environmental policy making at
the regional level, HELCOM works for a healthy Baltic Sea. Its mandate stems
from a regional treaty, the Helsinki Convention, whose implementation it
oversees. The HELCOM Secretariat is located in Helsinki, Finland.
The Helsinki Convention was signed in
1974 by the Baltic Sea coastal countries to address the increasing environmental
challenges from industrialisation and other human activities, and that were
having a severe impact on the marine environment. The Helsinki Convention
includes the protection of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution from
land, air and sea. It also commits the signatories to take measures to conserve
habitats and biological diversity and to ensure the sustainable use of marine
resources. The Helsinki Convention was updated in 1992 to take into account the
geopolitical changes and emerging environmental challenges in the region. The
current version was ratified in 2000.
Baltic Sea Action Plan
To help reach its environmental
objectives, HELCOM has established the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) in 2007.
The BSAP is HELCOM’s strategic programme of measure and actions for good status
of the Baltic Sea’s environment. The BSAP’s current focus areas are
eutrophication, hazardous substances, biodiversity and maritime activities. The
BSAP will be updated in 2021, to adjust the current actions and to widen its
scope on issues such as climate change, marine litter, loss of seabed and
Yet another milestone was reached on the update of the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP), with the HELCOM Contracting Parties agreeing on 2030 as the new target year for the plan. The decision was taken at the 58th Meeting of the HELCOM Heads of Delegation (HOD 58-2020) that was held online from 9 to 10 June 2020.
During the meeting, the HELCOM Contracting Parties also approved the work plan and preliminary timetable of the BSAP, currently set to be launched during the next HELCOM Ministerial Meeting planned for October 2021.
Further on the BSAP, HOD 58-2020 also supported the inclusion of actions related to monitoring of the marine environment, climate change, awareness raising, financing, and economic and social analysis.
The prolongation of the Expert Working Group on Oiled Wildlife Response (EWG OWR) until 2021 was also agreed on, along with its new terms of reference. The EWG OWR seeks to increase capacities to oiled wildlife response through joint regional standards, cooperation and training.
On HOLAS III, the third holistic assessment of the state of the Baltic Sea, a provisional timeline and preliminary plan were also agreed on during HOD 58-2020. HOLAS III will cover an assessment period from 2016 to 2021, with the final results to be presented in 2023. The last holistic assessment was instrumental for the update of the BSAP, presenting a comprehensive overview of the state of the Baltic Sea and the pressures affecting it.
The Heads of Delegation expressed their appreciation for the accomplishments achieved by HELCOM under the Finnish chairmanship, set to end in June 2020, notably on advancing the BSAP update process, as well as work on the reduction of nutrient inputs, the effects of climate change, and the links between HELCOM and the UN Agenda 2030, especially the integration of SDG 14 in HELCOM processes.
“Finland is handing over the HELCOM chairmanship to Germany, where I am sure it will be in the best of hands – after all, HELCOM is one big family of likeminded siblings all working very hard towards achieving the same goal, namely a Baltic Sea showing good ecological status,” said Saara Bäck, the outgoing Chair of HELCOM.
Germany will take over the chairmanship from HELCOM in July 2020, for a period of two years. A particularity of its chairmanship, Germany will, in addition to the Chairperson, also have two Vice-Chairs hailing from the two German federal states bordering the Baltic Sea, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
“The overarching goal remains the best possible protection of the Baltic Sea,” said Svenja Schulze, Minister of the Environment of Germany, in her video address introducing the German chairmanship and shown during HOD 25-2020, further indicating that the update of the BSAP will play a central role during the German tenure. Other priorities include issues such as marine protected areas, ammunitions on the seabed, and increasing the visibility of HELCOM.
Lilian Busse from the German Environment Agency (UBA) has been designated by Germany as its Chair for HELCOM, seconded by Vice-Chair Johannes Oelerich (Schleswig-Holstein) for the first year, and Vice-Chair Andreas Röpke (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) for the second year.
We are currently in search of an enthusiastic expert to strengthen our team at the international HELCOM Secretariat as Administrative Assistant. The position is to support the Administrative Officer in the administration of the Secretariat. While the tasks are mainly focused on finances, they also include tasks related to HR and general administration of the office.
assisting in closing of accounts and preparing the financial statement;
tasks related to accounting, invoicing, reporting and follow-up;
support in budgeting;
tasks related to HR and general administration (e.g. preparing contracts, reports and applications);
support in developing the administrative tools of the Secretariat;
other administrative tasks as assigned.
Qualifications and experience
Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field (e.g. business administration, public administration, economics) or corresponding education;
minimum of two years of relevant professional experience from financial and administrative tasks;
knowledge of accounting practices and systems;
ability to work independently, take responsibility and initiatives;
excellent organizational and administrative skills and proven ability to deliver to tight timelines;
excellent social and team skills;
A thorough knowledge of the English and Finnish languages as well as high competence in IT skills are essential.