Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

 

Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Concrete measures against eutrophication are elaborated in Helsinki during expert workshop on nutrient recycling

© Angela Rohde/Adobe Stock

In a bid to address the Baltic Sea’s eutrophication problem, about 40 experts on agriculture and wastewater attended a workshop in Helsinki last week to elaborate concrete actions and measures under HELCOM’s Nutrient Recycling Strategy.

“The aim of the [Nutrient Recycling Strategy] is to make better use of the nutrients already available [such as manure] and to reduce the [introduction] of new mineral nutrients into the cycle,” said Sari Luostarinen, the Chair of HELCOM Agri Group dealing with sustainable agricultural practices.

In 2018, the HELCOM members agreed, at the Ministerial level, to elaborate a Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy by 2020. Its objective is to reduce nutrient loading to the Baltic Sea by avoiding nutrient runoff by circulating the nutrients within the food chain. 

“Agriculture remains a large source of nitrogen and phosphorus runoff to the sea,” said Susanna Kaasinen, HELCOM’s expert on agriculture and nutrients. According to the results of the recent State of the Baltic Sea report, 97 % of the Baltic Sea area suffers from eutrophication, mainly caused by excessive nutrient loading stemming from agriculture. 

In Helsinki, during the workshop on nutrient recycling measures, the experts came up with a large variety of possible ideas for measures and actions which will now be considered by the HELCOM Agri and Pressure groups.

“The vision and objectives of the Nutrient Recycling Strategy were already defined in 2019,” said Kaasinen. “Now is the time to translate these into concrete actions and measures,” she said, adding that some of the proposals from the workshop could also be used for the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP). 

The BSAP is due to be updated by 2021 and is expected to heavily focus on eutrophication, among biodiversity, hazardous substances and litter, and sea-based activities.

The workshop was organized by the Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland, HELCOM, European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) Policy Area Nutri and Bioeconomy as well as SuMaNu and BSR Waterproject platforms. 

HELCOM Expert Interview: Sari Luostarinen on nutrients, eutrophication and agriculture

Sari Luostarinen is a Senior Research Scientist at the Natural Resources Institute of Finland (Luke) and is the current Chair of the HELCOM Agri group

Aren’t nutrients supposed to be good? What’s wrong with nutrients? 

Nutrients are vital for humans, animals and the environment as a whole. They are also vital for agriculture and food production. No crops can grow without nutrients. But as with most other compounds, too much in the wrong place causes problems. In our region for instance, the excess of nutrients has led to the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea.

In terms of eutrophication and nutrients, what is the current status in the Baltic Sea region?

The Baltic Sea is a vulnerable sea for many reasons. The nutrients it has received in the past are bound in the sediments and released under certain conditions, causing internal nutrient loading. At the same time, nutrient runoff from current human activities is adding to the problem. Of the latter, many point sources have been reduced, for example due to improved wastewater treatment. But it is more difficult to restrict diffuse loading such as from agriculture. Depending on the weather conditions and due to increasing temperatures, eutrophication and its consequences are worsening. More actions to control the nutrient load are needed.

In general, what would need to be done to curb eutrophication and nutrient inputs, especially in regard to agriculture?

As said, crops cannot grow without nutrients. Both phosphorus and nitrogen need to be available for crops on the fields to achieve good yields. Good yields also mean that most nutrients given as fertilizers end up in the harvested crop and little is lost to the environment. The amount of nutrients spread as fertilizers should be adequate, for instance adjusting quantities depending on the crop, the soil type and its nutrient content, as well as the timing of the spread. The use of animal manure as a fertilizer is the traditional way to recycle nutrients in food production. However, due to segregation of animal and crop production it may be either available in excess or in deficit depending on the region. More precise utilisation of manure nutrients, including replacing mineral fertilization with manure, is important for reducing agricultural nutrient load. Also, other measures, such as reduced tillage, catch crops, water protection zones, are also needed to manage nutrient losses.

What concrete steps is HELCOM currently taking on the nutrient issue from the agriculture perspective?

HELCOM is efficiently driving several measures to reduce agricultural nutrient losses to the Baltic Sea. As an example, HELCOM is preparing the introduction of recommendations for national manure standards. The aim is to ensure the availability of updated, scientifically proven data on manure quantities and nutrient contents in the Baltic Sea countries so that the manure data used in fertilization planning and thus the amount of manure spread on fields becomes more precise. This is expected to reduce nutrient runoff from the fields. Furthermore, on resource efficiency, HELCOM is also preparing a strategy for nutrient recycling in the Baltic Sea Region. Again, the aim is to introduce more efficient measures to make better use of the nutrients already available and to reduce the need to introduce new mineral nutrients into the cycle. For example, this could be achieved by processing manure, different wastes and their by-products into recycled fertilizers.

HELCOM body advocates smarter use of nutrients in agriculture to curb eutrophication

Smarter use of nutrients in agriculture will be key to curb eutrophication in the Baltic Sea, as was emphasized during the last meeting of the HELCOM Group on Sustainable Agricultural Practices (HELCOM Agri) that took place in Berlin, Germany from 5 to 6 November 2019.

Consisting of representatives from environmental and agricultural stakeholders such as national authorities, industry associations and NGOs, the HELCOM Agri group primarily aims at reducing the nutrient inputs from agriculture to the Baltic. Excessive nutrient concentrations in the sea remain the lead cause for eutrophication and toxic algal blooms.

The group is currently revising the Annex to the Helsinki Convention that sets legally binding requirements for sustainable practices of agricultural production for all Contracting Parties to the Helsinki Convention.

Growing ammonia emissions, regularly reported by the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP), and their subsequent deposition of nitrogen in the Baltic Sea are of particular scrutiny to the group as agriculture is the main source of emission of this gas.

The group compiled information on measures to reduce ammonia emissions which can be applied in agricultural practices, revealing that only a few of them have been implemented in almost all Baltic Sea countries.

“Ammonia emissions could be reduced through improved management of manure and better agricultural practices such as covering manure storage facilities, as well as injection and fast incorporation of manure to soils,” said Susanna Kaasinen, the project manager handling agriculture at HELCOM.

The group agreed that the currently valid HELCOM Recommendation on reduction of ammonia emissions is outdated, does not reflect modern state of scientific knowledge and is to be revised.

The group is also promoting smart nutrient management in the HELCOM countries by developing the Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy with the aim to close nutrient loops, return these valuable components to the food production and minimize their losses to the aquatic environment.

To advance smart nutrient management – one of the pillars of sustainable agriculture – the group has drafted HELCOM Recommendation on the use of national manure standards. 

In Berlin, the Agri group also elected its new Chair, Ms Sari Luostarinen, a senior research scientist at the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).

Read the outcome of the AGRI 8-2019 meeting

How to make the most of manure

Closed nutrient loop.png
Closed nutrient loop illustration from the handbook How to make the most of manure. © Manure Standards

In a bid to curb nutrient losses from agriculture, the root cause of eutrophication and algal blooms in the Baltic Sea, a handbook on smarter use of manure has been published this September by the Manure Standards project.

Targeted towards farmers and agricultural advisory organisations, the How to make the most of manure handbook provides hands-on and easy-to-read information on good manure management practices.

“Manure is a good natural fertilizer and valuable source of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, but we need to ensure that these stay on the fields and don’t enter the sea where they cause eutrophication,” said Kaisa Riiko, the HELCOM project coordinator at Manure Standards.

“The handbook will show farmers in an easy way how to best go about analysing, storing, spreading or dealing with excess manure,” she said.

The publication is part of the region’s wider effort to address eutrophication, currently the single largest pressure on the Baltic Sea.

According to a recent HELCOM report, 97 percent of the waterbody is affected by eutrophication, causing economic losses of up to EUR 4 billion per year in the region. Manure used in agriculture still remains a large source of nitrogen and phosphorus runoff to the sea.

At their Ministerial Meeting in 2018, HELCOM Contracting Parties therefore agreed to elaborate a Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy by 2020, to reduce nutrient loading to the Baltic by circulating the nutrients in a closed loop in the food chain.

Measures developed under the nutrient recycling strategy are also expected to be included in the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan.

Manure Standards, the publisher of the handbook, seeks to increase the capacity of farmers and other agricultural stakeholders to turn manure use towards improved sustainability and resource-efficiency.

Manure Standards is coordinated by Natural Resources Institute Finland and, besides HELCOM, includes partners from the nine Baltic Sea countries. The project is a flagship project of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region Policy Area Bioeconomy and it is co-financed by the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme

Handbook_cover.jpg

Download the How to make the most of manure handbook

At Interreg conference, HELCOM talks policy making, nutrient recycling and clean shipping

HELCOM shared its views on environmental policy making, nutrient recycling and clean shipping at the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme Conference that was held in Lübeck from 9 to 10 April 2019.Under the theme of , the conference presented the current accomplishments of the Interreg programme’s platforms and projects currently operating in the Baltic Sea region.The Interreg platforms and projects provide valuable scientific and technical underpinnings for HELCOM work. They also facilitate cross-sectoral collaboration, linking HELCOM to the private sector, local authorities and other Baltic Sea stakeholders.The outcomes of the platforms and projects will notably feed the beyond 2021, support the elaboration of the Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy by 2020, and contribute to overall policy making at HELCOM.HELCOM is involved in three Interreg platforms where it leads work packages related to policy implementation of the findings:: platform on nutrient recycling, where HELCOM is leading the work package “Policy recommendations for sustainable nutrient management and recycling”: platform management of smart sludge, storm and waste water, manure and energy efficiency, where HELCOM is leading the work package “Facilitation of the regional policy dialog on sustainable water management”, focussing on developing regional policy recommendations on nutrient recycling and hazardous substances.: platform on clean shipping in the Baltic Sea region, where HELCOM is leading the work related to drafting policy recommendations from the outputs of the different projects involved in the platform as well as developing an online dissemination tool to share information related to shipping in the BSRThe Interreg platforms group several Interreg projects with similar topics and objectives. Based on wider scope than the individual projects, the aim of the platforms is to facilitate the development of joint policy recommendations.In addition to the three platforms, HELCOM is also involved in seven Interreg projects.  The has four priorities, namely “Capacity for Innovation”, “Management of natural resources”, “Sustainable transport”, and “EU Strategy support”. Funded by the European Union, the programme backs integrated territorial development and cooperation, and is an agreement between EU member states Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden and the northern parts of Germany, as well as partner countries Norway, Belarus and the northwest regions of Russia.Over 300 participants from all around the Baltic Sea and beyond attended the conference that was held in Lübeck, Germany.

HELCOM shared its views on environmental policy making, nutrient recycling and clean shipping at the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme Conference that was held in Lübeck from 9 to 10 April 2019.

SuMaNu, a new regional project platform on nutrient management gets launched at HELCOM

SuMaNu partners meet in Helsinki from 23 to 24 October 2018 for the platform’s kick-off meeting.As part of the Baltic Sea region’s efforts to thwart eutrophication and its causes, the project platform “Sustainable manure and nutrient management for reduction of nutrient loss in the Baltic Sea Region” (SuMaNu) had its kick-off meeting at the HELCOM Secretariat in Helsinki from 23 to 24 October 2018.The  seeks to address excess nutrient loading – the main cause of eutrophication in the Baltic Sea – through more efficient management of nutrients, with a special focus on manure. A large share of the nutrient load in the Baltic Sea stems from agriculture. SuMaNu aims at promoting positive attitudes and best practices for a more efficient management of nutrients and the use of manure, notably to minimize leaks into watercourses and the Baltic Sea. The platform will gather and synthesize the best practices and recommendations on sustainable nutrient management from the existing projects of  (MS),  (BSA),  (GA) and  (PR). The intended beneficiaries of the project are national authorities and policy implementors such as agricultural and environmental ministries, regional policy makers such as HELCOM and EU bodies handling environmental matters, as well as farmers, farm advisors and other agricultural stakeholders.SuMaNu will build upon the results of previous manure-related projects, to provide holistic recommendations on nutrient and manure management, to ensure they are useful for both policy making and at the farm level.The results will also feed into the update process of the , HELCOM’s strategic tool for a healthy Baltic Sea. The outcomes will also support the elaboration of the Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy by 2020. Lead by the  (Luke), the partners of the platform are HELCOM, the  (BSAG), the  (ECRI), the  (ZSA), the , the  (CDR), the  (JKI), and the  (RISE).The  (Policy Areas Bioeconomy and Nutri), the  (CBSS) and the (ESPP) are associate partners.The project platform is co-financed by the EU’s .

As part of the Baltic Sea region’s efforts to thwart eutrophication and its causes, the platform “Sustainable manure and nutrient management for reduction of nutrient loss in the Baltic Sea Region” (SuMaNu) had its kick-off meeting at HELCOM.

HELCOM publishes reports on hazardous substances and input of nutrients to the Baltic Sea through the region biggest rivers

​HELCOM recently published two reports on hazardous substances and inputs of nutrients through the seven biggest rivers in the Baltic Sea region. The reports show the results from the  project that carries out pollution load assessment of the Baltic Sea from waterborne, diffuse and natural sources.”Both reports provide valuable information for assessing progress in reaching the HELCOM  (BSAP) reduction targets for hazardous substances and nutrients,” said Dmitry Frank-Kamenetsky, the HELCOM Professional Secretary handling matters related to hazardous substances and nutrient inputs. The first report, , presents the findings on heavy metals cadmium, mercury and lead, as well as atmospheric deposition of selected organic pollutants, pharmaceutical residues, and persistent organic pollutants – chemicals that can’t biodegrade or take a long time to do so.According to the report, the inputs of heavy metals and organic pollutants are on the decline overall. On the other hand, pharmaceuticals and persistent organic pollutants are already causing apprehension, despite having been added only recently to the assessment.  released to the Baltic Sea through wastewater treatment could amount to 1800 tonnes per year. Some of these residues have already been detected in various compounds of the Baltic Sea ecosystem.Nonylphenols, octylphenols and PFOS – persistent organic pollutants which are mainly used for treating metals and textile products, and as flame retardants – were particularly identified as of high concern by the HELCOM countries. Some of these chemicals can disrupt the hormonal balance in living organisms. The second report published by HELCOM, , highlights the inputs of nitrogen and phosphorous to the sea from the Daugava, Gota, Nemunas, Neva, Oder, Tornio and Vistula. These rivers cover about half of the Baltic Sea catchment area. 55 million people inhabit this region, leading to high man-made, or anthropogenic, pressure. The nutrient loads are highest in the southern catchments, where population is densest and agricultural activity is intense.  According to , the riverine inputs of total nitrogen and total phosphorus contribute about 80 percent and over 90 percent to the total input of these nutrients respectively. The report emphasizes the importance of measures in upstream parts of river basins, including transboundary parts, to reduce nutrient loads and achieve the environmental targets set by the .Over-supply of nitrogen and phosphorous remains the lead cause for  and the growth of algae in the Baltic Sea.Download the reports: (.pdf) (.pdf)

HELCOM recently published two reports on hazardous substances and inputs of nutrients through the seven biggest rivers in the Baltic Sea region. The reports show the results from the HELCOM Pollution Load Compilation (PLC) project.

HELCOM group meets in Riga to discuss nutrients from land-based sources

​Agricultural
practices and their effects on the Baltic Sea were the main focus of the Sixth
Meeting of the (AGRI 6-2018) that was held at
the Ministry of Agriculture in Riga, Latvia from 15 to 16 May 2018. This HELCOM group consists of representatives from environmental
and agricultural national authorities and observer organizations from HELCOM
countries.According to recent
HELCOM assessments,
– caused by oversupply of nutrients mainly from land-based sources – remains a major
threat to the Baltic Sea environment. Earlier in March, the recognized agriculture as one of the main contributors
to the total input of nutrients into the Baltic Sea. The HELCOM countries
therefore committed to improve cooperation with the agricultural sector in the
Baltic Sea region. The
discussed various aspects of sustainable agricultural practices in the region
and measures to reduce nutrient inputs to the Baltic Sea environment. Among
them are smart nutrient management in agriculture, innovative water management
in rural areas, revitalization of wetlands and paludiculture – agriculture on
peatlands. The decision taken
by the group on drafting regional recommendation for the use of national manure
standards addressing nutrients in manure is an important step towards better
nutrient management in the agricultural sector. The key themes of
the meeting were (i) organization of the work on regional nutrient recycling
strategy and (ii) the revision of Part 2 of – the section about the prevention of pollution
from agriculture. The group agreed on the practical steps towards elaboration
of the regional nutrient recycling strategy by 2020 under the lead of Finland.
The group decided to establish an international drafting group for revision of Annex
III in accordance with the earlier agreed scope of the revision and with the
timeframe extending to 2020.Participants also
discussed possible reasons for growing ammonia emissions in the region reported
by
(EMEP). The group decided to take a closer look into measures to reduce these
emissions applied in the countries and potential to elaborate related regional
recommendations.Read the AGRI 6-2018
meeting outcome document .

Agricultural practices and their effects on the Baltic Sea were the main focus of the Sixth Meeting of the HELCOM Group on Sustainable Agricultural Practices (AGRI 6-2018) that was held at the Ministry of Agriculture in Riga, Latvia from 15 to 16 May 2018

HELCOM agreement reached on next steps for a healthy Baltic Sea

​With three years remaining to reach the original deadline for a healthy Baltic Sea in 2021, the Ministers of the Environment and High-Level Representatives of the nine Baltic coastal countries and the European Union, meeting today in Brussels, Belgium, have agreed on new commitments for the Baltic marine environment. The ocean-related UN Sustainable Development Goals form a framework for the commitments.After intensive discussions, the Baltic Sea community today decided on renewed efforts for a healthy marine environment. Convening at the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in Brussels, the responsible Ministers, the EU Commissioner, and other high-level representatives reached an agreement that includes an update of the Baltic Sea Action Plan, intensified efforts to reach the goals of the existing Plan, and a regional strategy for nutrient recycling.High-level representatives at the 2018 HELCOM Ministerial Meeting, from left: Jānis Eglīts (Vice Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, Latvia), Camilla Gunell (Deputy Head of Government and Environmental Minister, Government of Åland), Karmenu Vella (Commissioner for the Environment, European Commission), Kęstutis Navickas (Minister of Environment, Lithuania), Barbara Hendricks (Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, Germany), Siim Kiisler (Minister of the Environment, Estonia), Kimmo Tiilikainen (Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing, Finland), Nuritdin Inamov (Director of the Department for International Cooperation and Board member of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, Russia), Anna Moskwa (Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation, Poland), Esben Lunde Larsen (Minister for Environment and Food, Denmark), Marianne Wenning (Chair, HELCOM), Monika Stankiewicz (Executive Secreatary, HELCOM), Karolina Skog (Minister for the Environment, Sweden).Updated roadmap to a restored marine environmentThe Ministerial Meeting today agreed to update the (BSAP) – the concrete roadmap for restoring the ecological balance of the Baltic Sea – by 2021. The updated BSAP will include new measures that are needed to achieve the existing goals: a Baltic Sea unaffected by eutrophication, a Baltic Sea with life undisturbed by hazardous substances, maritime activities carried out in an environmentally friendly way, and favourable conservation status of the Baltic Sea biodiversity. Recognizing that some actions agreed upon in the original BSAP are yet to be completed, the Meeting also decided on renewed efforts to fulfil the existing BSAP by 2021. Particular focus will be put on addressing those pressures that the report identified as most widely-distributed and harmful, including excess nutrients, contamination, underwater noise, invasive alien species, excessive extraction of fish, and physical disturbance of the seabed. Among other things, the Meeting decided to elaborate regional and national actions to limit the impacts of underwater noise on sensitive marine species.In a significant move towards curbing eutrophication, the Meeting participants committed to developing a Baltic-wide nutrient recycling strategy by 2020, aiming for reduced nutrient inputs to the Baltic Sea and for more efficient use of nutrients. The regional policy will support countries in creating a sustainable and environmentally safe scheme for recycling nutrients in agriculture and from sewage sludge.”HELCOM is a true example of successful regional ocean governance,” states Mr Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment. “The Baltic Sea Region is leading the way with marine protected areas now covering more than 12% of the Sea. It has been designated as Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) Emissions Control Area. But we need to step up efforts to address other challenges such as eutrophication, marine litter and underwater noise. The Declaration adopted under EU Presidency by the HELCOM Ministers confirms the commitment by its members to work together to achieve a healthy Baltic Sea.”  HELCOM to coordinate the workA common thread to the decisions made at the Meeting were the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations Agenda 2030. The countries around the Baltic Sea have previously agreed to use HELCOM as the regional arena for coordinating work on those SDGs that relate to marine and water issues. The Meeting agreed that the SDGs will be used as a framework when updating the BSAP. The Meeting participants also higlighted the cooperation within HELCOM as a good example that has much to give to other regional seas in the world.The outcome of the Meeting – the Ministerial Declaration – forms the concrete framework for the following years’ work for a healthier Baltic Sea. The work will take place within the long tradition of regional HELCOM cooperation, based on best available expertise, and involving all countries and the EU and various sector ministries within countries.The Ministerial Meeting was chaired by HELCOM Chair Ms Marianne Wenning. Representing HELCOM members were Mr Karmenu Vella (Commissioner for the Environment, European Commission), Mr Esben Lunde Larsen (Minister for Environment and Food, Denmark), Mr Siim Kiisler (Minister of the Environment, Estonia), Mr Kimmo Tiilikainen (Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing, Finland), Dr Barbara Hendricks (Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, Germany), Mr Kęstutis Navickas (Minister of Environment, Lithuania), Ms Karolina Skog (Minister for the Environment, Sweden), Mr Jānis Eglīts (Vice Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, Latvia), Ms Anna Moskwa (Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation, Poland), and Mr Nuritdin Inamov (Director of the Department for International Cooperation and Board member of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, Russia).The entire Ministerial Declaration is available online at: Twitter hashtag: * * *More information (PDF) (first version 2017 – to be updated 2018)Note for editorsThe 2018 HELCOM Ministerial Meeting will be held on 6 March in Brussels, Belgium, under the EU chairmanship of HELCOM. The Ministers of the Environment of the nine Baltic coastal states and the EU Environment Commissioner will gather to discuss the status and the future of the Baltic Sea marine environment. The outcome of the 2018 Ministerial Meeting is expected to revolve around new actions to meet the Sustainable Development Goals in the Baltic Sea, strengthening implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan by 2021, and adjusting the Baltic Sea Action Plan based on new knowledge and future challenges. More information on the .The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as HELCOM, is an intergovernmental organization of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union. HELCOM has worked since 1974 to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. HELCOM is the governing body of the “Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area,” more usually known as the Helsinki Convention.For further information, please contact:Ms Monika Stankiewicz Executive Secretary HELCOM +358 40 840 2471 monika.stankiewicz(at)helcom.fiMs Sara Estlander Communication Coordinator HELCOM +358 40 482 6103 sara.estlander(at)helcom.fi

The Ministers of the Environment and High-Level Representatives of the nine Baltic coastal countries and the European Union, meeting today in Brussels, Belgium, have agreed on new commitments for the Baltic marine environment.

Baltic Sea community to decide on renewed efforts for a healthy Baltic Sea

 Today, at the 2018 HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in Brussels, Belgium, the Baltic Sea countries and the EU come together to decide on renewed efforts to reach a healthy Baltic marine environment. HELCOM – the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission – is the arena in which the nine Baltic coastal states and the European Union work together to protect and restore the marine environment of the Baltic Sea. At the today, the responsible Ministers, the EU Commissioner, and other high-level representatives meet to assess the progress made towards reaching a good environmental status in the Baltic Sea. The outcome – the Ministerial Declaration – will form the framework for the following years’ work for a healthier Baltic Sea, following the long tradition of regional HELCOM cooperation.New information to guide new actionsThe recent shows that in spite of some positive signals, the efforts so far have not led to the recovery of the Baltic Sea. This is the first time that a comprehensive assessment of ecosystem health on this scale, based on a wide range of indicators and information on human activities and their impacts, is available as background information for a HELCOM Ministerial Meeting. “Thanks to thorough groundwork, we now understand better than before how the different pressures add up on specific areas, species and habitats in the Baltic Sea,” says HELCOM Chair Ms Marianne Wenning. “Because of this, we know more about what’s important to consider with regard to managing human activities. In this way informed choices can be made in order to reduce environmental pressures.”One reason that the Baltic marine environment has not yet recovered is the long delay between cause and effect, due to the natural features of the Baltic Sea. Further, some actions agreed upon in the (BSAP) from 2007 – the concrete roadmap for restoring the ecological balance of the Baltic Sea – are yet to be completed. In addition, some aspects of the environment have so far not been addressed in Baltic-wide plans and policies.Stepping up and raising the barIn light of this new information, an important part of the Ministerial Meeting today will be to decide both on stronger follow-through on the existing BSAP and on a blueprint and timeframe for updating the BSAP. The current Baltic Sea Action Plan aims for a healthy Baltic Sea by 2021, and rests on actions aimed at eutrophication, hazardous substances, biodiversity, and maritime activities. In the discussions leading up to the Ministerial Meeting, marine litter, underwater noise, and seabed damage and disturbance have been raised as possible additional issues for countries to follow up on more strongly, striving to limit adverse effects by increasing efforts and coordination at regional level. At the Meeting, the high-level representatives will decide on the next steps for these themes: e.g., whether action plans will be developed, whether indicators will be developed to measure these issues, and so on. The Meeting is also expected to follow up on the existing Regional Action Plan for marine litter. The high-level representatives at the Meeting are also set to finalize discussions on a possible future HELCOM strategy regarding nutrient recycling in the Baltic Sea area. This has been one of the goals of the EU chairmanship of HELCOM, as part of the target of promoting sustainable agricultural practices. Nutrient recycling is essential for reducing nutrient losses to the Baltic Sea and for efficiently using the limited nutrient resources.Meeting global goalsA common thread to the themes of the Meeting are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations Agenda 2030. The countries around the Baltic Sea have agreed to use HELCOM as the regional arena for coordinating work on those SDGs that relate to marine and water issues. The Meeting follows up on the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York in June 2017, where HELCOM made several towards SDG 14 – “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”.”The marine environment is threatened in many parts of the world’s oceans and the problems are often of a global nature,” says Ms Wenning. “Many of the UN SDGs are related to the state of seas and oceans so our work can serve as an important contribution to many of the SDGs goals.”The Ministerial Meeting will be chaired by HELCOM Chair Marianne Wenning of the EU. Expected to participate on behalf of HELCOM members are Mr Karmenu Vella (Commissioner for the Environment, European Commission), Mr Esben Lunde Larsen (Minister for Environment and Food, Denmark), Mr Siim Kiisler (Minister of the Environment, Estonia), Mr Kimmo Tiilikainen (Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing, Finland), Dr Barbara Hendricks (Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, Germany), Mr Kęstutis Navickas (Minister of Environment, Lithuania), Ms Karolina Skog (Minister for the Environment, Sweden), Mr Jānis Eglīts (Vice Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, Latvia), Ms Anna Moskwa (Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation, Poland), and Mr Nuritdin Inamov (Director of the Department for International Cooperation and Board member of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, Russia).The entire Ministerial Declaration will be available online after the meeting at: Twitter hashtag:  * * *More informationReport (PDF, 2 MB) (first version 2017 – to be updated 2018), June 2017, New York NOTE FOR EDITORSThe will be held on 6 March in Brussels, Belgium, under the EU chairmanship of HELCOM. The Ministers of the Environment of the nine Baltic coastal states and the EU Environment Commissioner will gather to discuss the status and the future of the Baltic Sea marine environment. The outcome of the 2018 Ministerial Meeting is expected to revolve around new actions to meet the Sustainable Development Goals in the Baltic Sea, strengthening implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan by 2021, and adjusting the Baltic Sea Action Plan based on new knowledge and future challenges. The background to the Meeting is provided by two major reports: (PDF) and (first version 2017 – to be updated 2018).The , usually referred to as HELCOM, is an intergovernmental organization of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union. HELCOM has worked since 1974 to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. HELCOM is the governing body of the “Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area,” more usually known as the Helsinki Convention.FOR FURTHER information, PLEASE CONTACT:Ms Monika Stankiewicz Executive Secretary HELCOM +358 40 840 2471 monika.stankiewicz(at)helcom.fiMs Sara Estlander Communication Coordinator HELCOM +358 40 482 6103 sara.estlander(at)helcom.fi

Today, at the 2018 HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in Brussels, Belgium, the Baltic Sea countries and the EU come together to decide on renewed efforts to reach a healthy Baltic marine environment.