Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission


Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

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

Why do we need HELCOM Holistic Assessments of the Baltic Sea?

The new video explains in a nutshell, why the Holistic Assessments on the State of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS) are so important. The next assessment, HOLAS 3, will be released in 2023.

Jannica Haldin, HELCOM Deputy Executive explains the importance of HOLAS 3.

For getting a sufficient level of information on the state of the entire sea area, and for seeing any improvement or deterioration caused by current human activities, such large-scale assessments must be prepared at regular intervals. The HOLAS assessments provide regular updates on the environmental situation in the Baltic Sea and, with each report captures a ‘moment’ in the dynamic life history of the Baltic Sea.

The forthcoming HOLAS 3 report highlights a broad range of aspects, covering the state of the ecosystem, environmental pressures and human well-being. It contributes to a vast sharing of knowledge, and to the development of knowledge, both within and across topics.

The focus of the assessment is to show results of relevance at the regional scale, and large-scale patterns between geographic areas.

Recording now available: Baltic Stakeholder Conference – Climate Change in the Baltic Sea, Day 1

More than 200 participants joined online to learn more about the regional effects of climate change in the Baltic Sea, on the first day of the Baltic Stakeholder Conference (BSC2022) on 26 September 2022. The recording is now available. The full outcome, including the summaries of the second day workshops, will be uploaded to the event web page later.

The effects of climate change are already evident in the Baltic Sea. However, they are often not easy to understand and can be difficult to distinguish from other anthropogenic pressures. There is large variation between different regions in the Baltic Sea, ruling out simple management solutions.

One key purpose of the Conference was to present the key outtakes of the Climate Change in the Baltic Sea Fact Sheet, as well as present the outcomes of the HELCOM Blue Carbon Workshop. Moreover, the 1-hour panel was organized to particularly stimulate and gather views on climate change mitigation and adaptation from policymakers, research community and other stakeholders in the Baltic Sea region.

The Conference was moderated by Jannica Haldin, Deputy Executive Secretary of HELCOM.

Key outtakes

Opening remarks

Delivered by: Sebastian Unger, First Marine Commissioner, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection of Germany; Marcus Reckermann, Head of the International Baltic Earth Secretariat; and Rüdiger Strempel, Executive Secretary, HELCOM

  • Humankind is in essence fully dependent on healthy oceans as allies in the fight against climate change. It is crucially important to tackle the current triple crises of climate change, biodiversity and pollution also impacting the Baltic Sea marine environment.
  • Collaboration between HELCOM and Baltic Earth, a key alliance underlying the Conference, has lasted for close to twenty years and can be viewed as a model for channelling scientific findings into the regional political process. The most recent joint publication of the two organizations is the 2021 Climate Change Fact Sheet.
  • Climate change impacts and risks are becoming increasingly complex and more difficult to manage, states the 2022 IPCC Assessment Report. The global community, following e.g. the Paris Agreement context, as well all the commitments made at the national level, play a crucial part on climate change mitigation, while the regional level efforts, such as the new climate actions set in the 2021 HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan update, are prominent in tackling the challenges regionally, at a sea basin level.

Climate Change in the Baltic Sea – state of affairs

Diving deeper into the topic through keynote presentations (available here):

  • Baltic Earth/HELCOM fact sheet on climate change in the Baltic Sea. Markus Meier, Chair of the Baltic Earth Science Steering Group, Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde
  • Blue Carbon in the Baltic Sea Region – Excerpts from HELCOM Workshop 2021. Manuela Krakau, Scientific Officer, German Environment Agency (UBA)
  • Climate projections for the Baltic Sea Region. Erik Kjellström, Climate researcher, Swedish Meteorological Hydrological Institute (SMHI)


  • Johanna Källén Fox, Director, WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme
  • Markus Meier, Chair of the Baltic Earth Science Steering Group, Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde
  • Henna Rinne, Senior Specialist, Ministry of the Environment of Finland
  • Evija Šmite, Chair of HELCOM, Deputy Director General and the Director of Fisheries Control Department, State Environmental Service of Latvia
  • Rüdiger Strempel, Executive Secretary, HELCOM

What is the added value of regional level work to climate change mitigation?

  • For creating a healthy ecosystem that is resilient, we need cooperation, as we all know that the sea knows no boundaries. The less we do in mitigation, the more we will have to do in the adaptation later. Blue carbon could be a good goal.
  • Baltic Sea region is rather specific in many respects, there are many stressors acting on the ecosystem both at sea and from land which differ from any other place in the world.
  • Having a regional perspective in climate adaptation certainly has added value of, as many aspects – mitigation, Marine Protected Areas, climate refugees, among others – really make it necessary to consider climate change in regional account.
  • The Climate Change Fact Sheet concisely sets the scene for the work that needs to be done, and it takes well into account the complexities of different human uses, biodiversity etc. Identifying the links is essential in the Baltic Sea protection and HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan has nicely included them.
  • One should “think globally, act regionally”, not only locally. Regional cooperation is crucial and necessary, and a well-functioning regional organization is fundamental in succeeding in it.
  • Baltic Sea Region has traditionally cooperated, beyond HELCOM, for centuries. Other advantages are avoid duplication of efforts and maximizing synergies, for more efficient results.

No time to lose

  • We also have a problem with time scales: impacts of climate change are documented to come faster than expected. Will we lose the natural Baltic Sea carbon storage capacity faster than we can act?
  • Moreover, climate change is also complex in terms of needs for society and environment to leave space for nature “do its job” to naturally recover, which takes time.  
  • We must act with limited knowledge already now; the uncertainties are large, but we know now more than, there is a lot of information that we can already now use in marine management. And at the same time, we constantly increase our knowledge.
  • The problem of climate change has been known for decades and we are now on the crises stage. Nevertheless, we also have good goals and targets already in place in the Baltic Sea region, we are definitely not starting from scratch neither regionally or nationally.
  • The costs of inactions must be made aware of, all of us have a way to make our voices heard higher in the political agenda – and stay there.

About BSC2022

Centered around the theme of climate change in the Baltic Sea, the Baltic Stakeholder Conference – Climate Change in the Baltic Sea (BSC2022) was part of the efforts to disseminate knowledge on the regional effects of climate change. The Conference was held online on 26-27 September 2022, hosted by Germany (German Environment Agency, UBA, and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation in Germany, BfN) and Baltic Earth. The webinar on Day 1 was open to all, and the workshop on Day 2 by invitation only.

Key outcomes of the UN Ocean Conference 2022 side event: Delivering Global Commitments in the Baltic Sea Region

The panel addressed the many complexities of marine protection, for instance, how to avoid mere “paper parks” and to ensure, that the conservation goals can be effectively accomplished.

The lively panel discussion of the side event, Delivering global commitments in the Baltic Sea Region, raised particular praise during the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, held from 27 June to 1 July 2022. The key outcome summary of the side event has now been published.

The participants of the side event, organized by the Baltic Sea countries and partner organizations, discussed the role of effective regional marine governance in achieving SDG 14 and presenting HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan as a best-practice example.

As a case in point, the side event used Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and, areas that are achieving the effective in-situ conservation of biodiversity outside of protected areas – the so-called Other Effective Conservation Measures or OECMs. The programme of the event is available at the event webpage.

More UN Ocean commitments submitted

Voluntary commitments for the Ocean Conference are initiatives voluntarily undertaken by for instance governments, NGOs, financial and academic institutions, as well as the United Nations system and other intergovernmental organizations.

The UN Ocean Conference 2020 was postponed due to COVID 19. Some new HELCOM voluntary commitments have now been submitted (as of August 2022) to the UN Ocean Conference Registry of Commitments. Some of the commitments have been modified from the 2020 proposals while some are newly created.

How HELCOM supports reaching SDG14

In a special video, three key experts as well the executives of HELCOM Secretariat explain about HELCOM achievements and goals, and how they have been created to support reaching the Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life under water.


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Latvia starts its two-year chairmanship of HELCOM today

As of 1 July 2022, Latvia will be the Chair of HELCOM until 30 June 2024. The chairmanship rotates between Contracting Parties every two years, in alphabetical order.

Ms Evija Šmite, Deputy Director General and the Director of Fisheries Control Department, State Environmental Service of Latvia starts as the new Chair of HELCOM. She has worked on matters regarding marine environment protection and fisheries control in the public administration of Latvia since 1997.

The priorities of the Latvian Chairmanship will focus on:

  1. HELCOM as an effective and well-functioning organisation of regional cooperation which is capable of action, including in unforeseen and force majeure situations.
  2. Implementation of the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP 2021), with particular attention paid to:
    1. protection of marine biodiversity
    2. advancing ecosystem based sustainable marine management by integration of environmental objectives with socio-economic goals
  3. Strengthening the role of regional cooperation in the context of international ocean governance. 

Read more here about the Latvian priorities for HELCOM in 2022-2024.

Ms. Ilona Mendzina has been selected as the Vice-Chair. She is the Deputy Director of the Nature Protection Department, and the Head of Species and Habitats Protection Division of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development.

A new HELCOM leaflet summarizing German chairmanship

Coincidingly, a leaflet on current HELCOM work and to celebrate the conclusion of the German Chairmanship, ending on 30 June 2022, is now free for downloading in our website:

Federal Minister of Germany, Steffi Lemke to open the Side Event, Delivering global commitments in the Baltic Sea Region

Ms Steffi Lemke, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection, Germany will be among the high-level representatives opening the Side Event on 30 June 2022, taking place during the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

Ms Lemke will be joined by Ms Terhi Lehtonen, Vice-Minister of the Ministry of the Environment of Finland, as well as Mr. Antti Tooming, Deputy Secretary General, from the Ministry of the Environment of Estonia.

One key aim of the event is to present marine protection as a concrete example of the instrumental role of the regional sea conventions in implementing Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life under water – in particular and other global commitments in general, at the macro-regional and sea-basin levels.

HELCOM achievements in delivering global goals

A brand new video exhibits the many sides of HELCOM work, from the vision and goals to strategic tools and concrete work, and how it all delivers to reaching SDG 14 – Life under water.

The 75-minute side event will present HELCOM’s Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) 2021–2030 as a best practice example for an ecosystem-based approach to marine management from science to action. The BSAP provides concrete tools for reaching the regional commitments, such as the establishment of a coherent MPA network, which has made substantial progress in the Baltic Sea Region. Moreover, the growing importance of the so called Other Effective Conservation Measures (OECMs) will be explored as a more novel method to holistically conserve biodiversity.

Main organizers of the event are the Ministries of the Environment of Estonia and Germany (HELCOM Chair).

UN Ocean Conference, postponed due to the covid pandemic, will be held in Lisbon, Portugal from 27 June until 1 July, 2022.

Please find here more information about the event and stay tuned for updates!

HELCOM meetings remain suspended until further notice

The present Chairmanship of HELCOM, Germany, in agreement with the European Union and Contracting Parties to the Helsinki Convention that are Member States of the European Union, has opted to prolong the suspension of all official HELCOM meetings until further notice. The suspension was initially announced in a statement issued on 4 March 2022.

All meetings of the official HELCOM bodies including the Helsinki Commission, Heads of Delegations, Working Groups, Experts Groups and other subsidiary bodies thus remain suspended.