Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

 

Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

First draft of the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan is unveiled to HELCOM decision-makers at HOD 59-2020

Entering a final stretch, another major milestone was crossed last week when the first full draft of the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) was presented to the organization’s decision-makers during the autumn meeting of the HELCOM Heads of Delegation (HOD 59-2020) that took place online.

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.

On shipping, and more specifically on the management of ballast water which is a major source of introduction of alien species to the Baltic Sea, the Heads of Delegation further approved the revised HELCOM-OSPAR Joint Harmonised Procedure on the granting of exemptions under International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (JHP).

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.

Experts from the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina also presented their recent discussion paper on underwater archaeology “Traces under Water”, highlighting the mutual benefits of protecting both the marine environment and underwater heritage from the common pressures arising from ammunitions, ghost nets and eutrophication.

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.

Baltic Sea Action Plan: HELCOM revamps its tool for tracking implementation progress

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.

The BSAP is due to be updated in 2021.

Job offer: Project researcher in economic and social analyses

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.

Please apply by 23 November 2020

Baltic Data Flows: New HELCOM project seeks to harmonize and harvest environmental data at a pan-Baltic level

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.

Co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility of the European Union’s Innovation And Networks Executive Agency(INEA) and led by HELCOM, the project will run for three years through September 2023. Further partners are ICESLHEISMHISpatineoStockholm University, and SYKE.

Job offer: project coordinator for the Baltic Data Flows project

Please note: application 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 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.

Please apply by 2 November 2020.


World Migratory Bird Day: video message by Rüdiger Strempel

Video message by Rüdiger Strempel, HELCOM Executive Secretary, on the occasion of World Migratory Bird Day

Migratory birds are true connectors, reminding us of how ecosystems are intricately intertwined even when worlds apart.

In the Baltic Sea, migratory water birds are a key component of the food web. They are also indicators of the health of the marine environment.

Of the roughly 100 migratory water bird species that call the Baltic their home – and be it for a brief stop-over only – about a quarter are on our Red List of endangered species.

Indeed, waterbirds are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment. 

We know for instance that some birds do not return to their original wintering habitats if wind energy facilities have been installed there.

Accidental bycatch in fishing nets of birds diving for food is also a cause for concern.

When planning what we do at sea, we therefore need to carefully consider migratory birds too, taking into account their habitats and migration corridors. 

Applying ecosystem-based management will help to strike a balance between our activities and the needs of waterbirds for resting, breeding or wintering. 

We do benefit from the sea and its resources, but we also have a responsibility to maintain it in a healthy state.

On this World Migratory Bird Day, let’s remember that “Birds Connect Our World”. Wherever we are, migratory birds remind us that we are part of a greater whole. 

In protecting their environment, we’re also protecting our own.


More on World Migratory Bird Day:
https://www.worldmigratorybirdday.org

Vacancy at HELCOM: Professional Secretary for Pressure, Agri and MSP Working Groups

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.

Germany takes over HELCOM chairmanship, prioritizes marine biodiversity and pressures on the Baltic Sea

The German Chairmanship team:
HELCOM Chair Lilian Busse (centre) with Vice-Chairs Andreas Röpke (left) and Johannes Oelerich (right). Photo: BMU

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.

“Beside the technical and political goals Germany has planned for its [chairmanship], I will focus on the Baltic Sea Action Plan,” said Busse in her joint video address with the HELCOM Vice-Chairs chosen by Germany to second her.

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.

The German priorities for its chairmanship of HELCOM are:

  1. Working together for our sea – the Baltic Sea;
  2. Strengthening ocean governance;
  3. Updating and implementing the BSAP – making progress on specific requirements;
  4. Trying new solutions for well-known, pressing challenges;
  5. Strengthening marine biodiversity; and
  6. 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 resilience.


About HELCOM

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

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.

The 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 underwater noise.

HELCOM Heads of Delegation decide on BSAP target year at key meeting

HOD 58-2020 took place online from 9 to 10 June 2020. © HELCOM

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. 

“Germany is taking over the chairmanship as a team,” said Busse in her joint video address with Vice-Chairs Oelerich and Röpke.

HELCOM is recruiting its new Administrative Assistant

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. 

Responsibilities

  • 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. 

Apply by end of 22 June 2020.

More details about the job offer and on how to apply can be found on our vacancy page.