“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.
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.
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.
A 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Coordinator for the Baltic Data Flows project.
The appointment is planned to be full time, starting preferably on 18 January 2021 through the end of the project on 30 September 2023. The monthly salary is 3.000 € per month. Please note that the HELCOM salaries are exempt from Finnish income tax.
The tasks are expected to be carried out independently. However, the Project Coordinator will cooperate with the HELCOM staff involved, who will provide comments and general guidance on the overall HELCOM framework.
The tasks require understanding of marine‐related data collection processes and the concept of public and distributed open data. The selected candidate is expected to familiarize herself/himself with the HELCOM data collection and harmonisation processes and practices as well as the objective and concept of the European Data Portal.
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