Progress of the Baltic Sea countries in conserving seals is being discussed by the of HELCOM Seal expert group continuing today in Berlin, Germany. The group, consisting of experts, administrators and interest groups, will also discuss the new HELCOM core indicators for assessing the status of mammals in the Baltic Sea. Other major meeting items are the updating of national seal management plans, as well as following up on the effectiveness of the HELCOM Recommendation on conservation of seals (). Photo: ShutterstockMarine mammals of the Baltic – grey seal, ringed seal, harbour seal and harbour porpoise – are reflecting well the health status of marine ecosystem. They are on top of the food web and indicate the state of the environment. They also accumulate many poisonous substances and are affected by human disturbance such as incidental catch. Whether the countries are conserving seals effectively and meeting the standards agreed in the HELCOM Recommendation (27/28-2) are also addressed by the meeting. Such assessment is to be done every five years and the next round is in 2016. Linked to the Recommendation follow-up, new assessment tools – HELCOM core indicators on mammals – are soon to be launched. The core indicators must be regularly updated and this will be provided for by improved data and data flow on Baltic seals, another item of the meeting. Moreover, the mammal indicators have been designed so that they feed into the next HELCOM Holistic Assessment of the Ecosystem Health of the Baltic Sea. Furthermore, national management plans for seals will be reviewed by the meeting. Such plans are needed as part of the measures taken to safeguard the long-term viability of the Baltic seal populations, as agreed in the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan. . All documents will be public after the meeting. * * * Notes for editorsHELCOM Ad Hoc Seal Expert has met annually since 2006 and consists of researchers, administrators and interest group representatives from the entire Baltic Sea region. The Seal Group has established a common scientific basis on what is a healthy status of the Baltic seals populations, and it regularly follows up on the management plans and other actions as required by the HELCOM requirements. The work is carried out in three teams: population size, distribution, and health teams. The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as , is an intergovernmental organization of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. Since 1974, HELCOM has been the governing body of the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’, more commonly known as the Helsinki Convention. * * * For more information, please contact:Petra KääriäAssistant Professional SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 630 9933Skype: helcom68E-mail: petra.kaaria(at)helcom.fi Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi
Progress of the Baltic Sea countries in conserving seals is being discussed by the meeting of HELCOM Seal expert group continuing today in Berlin, Germany.