Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

New HELCOM structure ready for more effective Baltic protection

New HELCOM main working groups are now decided on, to better meet with the present needs and challenges in the governments’ efforts to protect the Baltic marine environment, and to improve the work flow and overall effectiveness of handling the urgently important task. The decision taken by the HELCOM Heads of Delegation, during a ending this afternoon in Helsinki, Finland, completes the process of modernizing the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission – HELCOM – by establishing an upgraded working structure for HELCOM.  “It is exciting to witness the new beginning for HELCOM and finalize the lengthy streamlining process, ending quite aptly during the 40th anniversary year of the Commission. The thorough journey has itself been rewarding and useful – the re-evaluation of HELCOM priorities, which reflect well the priorities of the Contracting Parties; the assessing of the many inter-linkages with other international frameworks; and making even better use of limited resources”, states HELCOM Chair Harry Liiv. The new main groups are designed to optimally match the HELCOM priorities. One of the new groups will address the pressures from human activities on land, including inputs of nutrients and hazardous substances, as well as marine litter and underwater noise. On the other hand, the development of a coherent holistic assessment of ecosystem health as well as ensuring an unbroken chain of monitoring, indicators and assessments will be under one umbrella group, which is, importantly, also dedicated for biodiversity protection and nature conservation as they remain a crucial part of HELCOM work.  Addressing maritime activities and response to pollution at sea and the shore continue as vital for HELCOM as before, not forgetting maritime spatial planning, sustainable agriculture practices and sustainable fisheries.  A special group GEAR will continue to ensure the coherent implementation of the ecosystem approach but also a harmonized approach between the HELCOM working groups.  * * *All HELCOM groups:Working Group related to reducing loads, emissions and anthropogenic dischargesThe new group will provide the necessary technical underpinning to the work on nutrient and hazardous substances inputs from diffuse sources and point sources on land, including to the follow-up of the implementation of the nutrient reduction scheme. It will focus on developing solutions to the policy-relevant questions and needs. The group will also have the coordination of marine litter and underwater noise in its portfolio. Working Group related to environmental assessments and nature protection The new subsidiary body will cover monitoring and assessment theme as well as nature conservation and biodiversity protection theme in HELCOM with a specific arrangement for its work, including meetings, in order to cater for the needs to efficiently cover both themes. Group on Sustainable Agricultural PracticesThe new group will deal with agriculture in relation to the implementation of the ecosystem-based approach and involve representatives from agriculture and environment authorities of the Baltic Sea countries, as well as EU and HELCOM Observers. It will provide a platform for agri-environmental policy measures and instruments and joint discussion on the Baltic agriculture in the context of the protection of the marine environment, in order to address nutrient inputs and emissions from agriculture. Group on Ecosystem based Sustainable FisheriesThe new group will deal with fisheries in relation to the implementation of the ecosystem-based approach. Moreover, the group will respond to the need to find solutions on how the sector could further contribute to reaching Good Environmental Status of the Baltic Sea by 2021. The group will involve representatives from fisheries and environment authorities of the Baltic Sea countries, as well as EU, and HELCOM Observers and others as appropriate. Group for the implementation of the ecosystem approach – GEARThe GEAR Group will work towards region-wide co-operation on all elements of national marine strategies, building both on national activities based on a legal framework and HELCOM’s work, such as HELCOM’s coordinated monitoring programmes, core indicators with good environmental status boundaries, thematic and integrated assessment reports, including assessment of pressures on the marine environment, as well as commonly agreed measures, with the view to facilitate adaptive management and strive for improved state of the Baltic Sea. Maritime groupThe Maritime group works to prevent any pollution from ships – including deliberate operational discharges as well as accidental pollution. The group works to ensure that adopted regulations are observed and enforced effectively and uniformly through close international co-operation; as well as to identify and promote actions to limit sea-based pollution while ensuring safe navigation. Response groupHELCOM Response Group works to ensure swift national and international response to maritime pollution incidents and that in case of an accident the right equipment is available and routines are in place to respond immediately in cooperation with neighbouring states. The Group also coordinates the aerial surveillance of maritime shipping routes to provide a complete picture of sea-based pollution around the Baltic, and to help identify suspected polluters.  HELCOM-VASAB working group on maritime spatial planningA joint co-chaired Working Group works to ensure cooperation among the Baltic Sea region countries for coherent regional Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) processes. The group, lead jointly with the Vision and Strategies around the Baltic Sea (VASAB), provides a forum for regional, trans-boundary and cross-sectoral dialogue. The HELCOM-VASAB MSP Working Group follows and examines as well as makes use of the outcomes and findings of regional project activities relevant to MSP.New Terms of Reference available soon in and  * * *Note for editors: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 further information, please contact: Johanna Laurila Information Secretary HELCOM Tel: +358 40 523 8988 Skype: helcom70 E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)

New main working groups are now decided on, to better meet with the present needs and challenges in the governments’ efforts to protect the Baltic marine environment.