Eleven new marine and coastal protected areas with high biological diversity have recently been designated as HELCOM marine protected areas () in Finland. The new MPA nominations expand the existing network in the Baltic Sea by 720 km2, which now in total has 174 sites covering an area of ca 540,400 km2 – roughly the size of France. The spread of HELCOM marine protected areas has increased threefold since 2004 and now covers about 12 % of the Baltic Sea marine area. Photo: Metsähallitus NHS/Mats WesterbomThe four sites in the Gulf of Finland and one in the Gulf of Bothnia represent important marine environments, reefs and sandbanks in offshore areas. Meanwhile, six sites in the Archipelago Sea include different types of islets and islands in the outer archipelago. All but one of the new MPAs are also under the Natura 2000 status, ensuring smoother joint management as well as better legal protection. The criteria for coastal and marine Baltic Sea protected areas was upgraded in the new HELCOM Recommendation () last year, which now also takes into account Red-listed species at risk of extinction, as well as biotopes threatened by collapse in the Baltic Sea. Also the need for ecological coherence is now more clearly manifested. In general, the Recommendation helps to protect the full range of biodiversity in the region, preserve ecosystems as well as to secure a sustainable use of natural resources. The spread of HELCOM marine protected areas has increased threefold since 2004 and now covers about 12 % of the marine area, thereby exceeding the target of 10 % set by the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Baltic Sea was one of the first regional seas in the world to reach this target. However, the designation of HELCOM MPAs in off-shore areas has so far been lagging behind, which has weakened the network’s ecological coherence. The new sites in Finland expands the area of protection especially in off-shore waters. The work continues – an analysis of ecological coherence of the network will be carried out by HELCOM later this year. List of the new HELCOM marine protected areas (MPA) in Finland: * * *Note for editors:HELCOM covers monitoring and assessment functions as well as issues related to nature conservation and biodiversity protection in HELCOM. The group works across the monitoring-indicators-assessment chain for the coordinated development of HELCOM thematic assessment tools, as well as coherent holistic assessment of the ecosystems health. The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as , is an intergovernmental organisation 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 further information, please contactJanica BorgProject Coordinator (ECONET, HELCOM MPAs)HELCOMTel: +358 40 662 0101E-mail: janica.borg(@)helcom.fiSkype: helcom57 Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988E-mail: johanna.laurila(@)helcom.fiSkype: helcom70
Eleven new marine and coastal protected areas with high biological diversity have been designated as HELCOM marine protected areas in Finland.