HELCOM has eight main groups – the HELCOM Working Groups – which handle specific topics related to the Baltic Sea’s environment or maritime activities. The groups are major contributors to the HELCOM work, gathering science and technical expertise and translating their findings into policies, strategies or recommendations best suited for responding to a particular issue affecting the Baltic Sea.
Of the current eight HELCOM Working Groups (WGs), five are permanent and three have a limited time mandate.
The work carried out in the HELCOM Working Groups usually needs to be further approved by the HELCOM decision making bodies such as the Heads of Delegation or the Meeting of the Helsinki Commission.
The HELCOM Working Groups are mainly composed of national experts, usually from a Ministry or a national agency and who are officially nominated by a HELCOM Contracting Party. The groups are led by a Chair elected by its members, and are serviced by a HELCOM Professional Secretary. The groups usually have two main meetings per year, in spring and in autumn.
In addition, HELCOM also has a variety of expert groups and networks that are supervised by and fall under the responsibility of a main HELCOM Working Group.
The five permanent HELCOM Working Groups
GEAR – Working Group on the Implementation of the Ecosystem Approach
Maritime – Maritime Working Group
Pressure – Working Group on reduction of Pressures from the Baltic sea Catchment area
Response – Response Working Group
State & Conservation – Working group on the State of the Enviroment and Nature Conservation
The three time-limited HELCOM Working Groups
Agri – Working Group on sustainable agricultural practices
Fish – Working Group on Ecosystem-based sustainable fisheries
HELCOM-VASAB MSP – Joint HELCOM-VASAB Working Group on Maritime Spatial Planning
The five permanent groups:
- The GEAR WG works towards the regional co-operation on national marine strategies, with the view to facilitate adaptive management of marine and maritime matters that is based on the ecosystem approach.
- The Maritime WG works to prevent any pollution from ships – including deliberate operational discharges as well as accidental pollution.
- The Pressure WG focuses on inputs of nutrients and hazardous substances from land. Its portfolio also includes marine litter and underwater noise.
- The Response WG works to ensure a swift national and international response to maritime pollution incidents and coordinates aerial surveillance of shipping in the Baltic Sea.
- The State and Conservation WG covers monitoring and assessment of the Baltic Sea as well as issues related to nature conservation and biodiversity protection.
The three time-limited groups:
- The Agri WG enhances dialogue between agricultural and environmental authorities on the development and application of sustainable agricultural practices with the least environmental impact on the Baltic Sea.
- The Fish WG deals with fisheries in relation to the implementation of the ecosystem-based approach.
- The HELCOM-VASAB MSP WG focuses on coherent regional maritime spatial planning (MSP) processes in the Baltic Sea. It is jointly managed by HELCOM and VASAB.
The time-limited groups were set up to respond to and direct additional resources at emerging needs.
HELCOM Expert Groups
as of 24 March 2021
- CG Aquaculture – Correspondence Group concerning a draft document on Best Available Technology/Best Environmental Practices (BAT/BEP) descriptions for sustainable aquaculture in the Baltic Sea region
- FISH-M – Task Force on migratory fish species
- AIS EWG – Expert Working Group for Mutual Exchange and Deliveries of AIS data
- GREEN TEAM – Green Technology and Alternative Fuels Platform for Shipping
- JTG Ballast & Biofouling – Joint HELCOM/OSPAR Task Group on Ballast Management Convention Exemptions (BWMC) and Biofouling
- PRF Cooperation Platform – Cooperation Platform on Port Reception Facilities in the Baltic Sea
- SAFE NAV – Group of Experts on Safety of Navigation
- EN Marine Litter – Expert Network on Marine Litter
- EN Noise – Expert Network on Underwater Noise
- EN DREDS – Expert Network on dredging and subsequent depositing operations at sea
- REDCORE DG – Reduction Scheme Core Drafting Group
- CG PHARMA – Correspondence Group on Pharmaceuticals
- EWG OWR – Expert Working Group on Oiled Wildlife Response
- EWG SHORE – Expert Working Group on Response on the Shore
- IWGAS – Informal Working Group on Aerial Surveillance
- SUBMERGED – Expert Group on Environmental Risks of Hazardous Submerged Objects
State and Conservation
- EG MAMA – Expert Group on marine mammals
- EG STUR – Expert Group on Sturgeon Remediation
- EN Hazardous Substances – Expert Network on hazardous substances
- EN BENTHIC – Expert Network on Benthic Habitats and Biotopes
- IN Benthic habitat – Intersessional Network on habitat monitoring
- EN CLIME – Joint HELCOM/Baltic Earth Expert Network on Climate Change
- IN Eutrophication – Intersessional Network on eutrophication
- JWG Bird – HELCOM-OSPAR-ICES Joint Working Group on Seabirds
- MORS – Expert group on monitoring of radioactive substances in the baltic sea