Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Shared support for the threatened Baltic harbour porpoise

​​This week the harbour porpoise, the threatened and also the only small whale (cetacean) species of the Baltic Sea, gets international attention in a high-level meeting in Helsinki, Finland. HELCOM is represented in the meeting to establish even stronger links with the ASCOBANS Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans. The work between the two organizations has begun in the 1990s. There are less than 500 harbour porpoises left in the Baltic Sea. Photo: Solvin Zankl/Swedish Agency for Marine and Water and Management. HELCOM has contributed long-term to the research and management tools for alleviating pressures on threatened and declining species in the Baltic Sea, also the harbour porpoise, the population of which dropped dramatically in the mid-1950s and is now at under 500 in the Baltic Sea. The top current threats for Baltic harbour porpoise are bycatch in fisheries, environmental toxins and anthropogenic noise.  The HELCOM work related to conserving the harbour porpoise, led by the Seal expert since 2006, has expanded in recent years. One prominent HELCOM area is the work on indicators, as measuring the changes in the environment will help determine the most effective management decisions. The development work of a specific harbour porpoise indicator is ongoing, HELCOM also works at full speed to develop two indicators on : both ambient and impulsive noise. There are also two major HELCOM reports coming soon, about the impact of underwater noise as well as mitigation measures. Cooperation between ASCOBANS and HELCOM has long traditions and it has stayed lively up to today. For instance, the joint HELCOM/ASCOBANS harbour porpoise has been ready and regularly updated for ten years. The new resolutions to be adopted by ASCOBANS this week will be brought to the attention of the relevant HELCOM working groups covering all the Contracting Parties of the Helsinki Convention.* * *Note for editors: is an intergovernmental organization made up of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union. Founded in 1974, its primary aims as a governing body are to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution, as well as to ensure safe maritime navigation. The official name of HELCOM is the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission; it is the governing body of the Helsinki Convention.  was concluded in 1991 as the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas (ASCOBANS) under the auspices of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) and entered into force in 1994. In February 2008, an extension of the agreement area came into force which changed the name to “Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas”. * * * For more information, please contact:Petra KääriäAssistant Professional SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 630 9933Skype: helcom68E-mail: petra.kaaria(at) Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)

HELCOM reinforces links with ASCOBANS in a high-level meeting this week, discussing key challenges to the declining species.