Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

 

Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Baltic Data Flows: New HELCOM project seeks to harmonize and harvest environmental data at a pan-Baltic level

In a bid to harmonize, harvest and share data about the Baltic marine environment at a regional level, HELCOM launched the Baltic Data Flows project in October 2020. 

“With Baltic Data Flows, we will be able to put together the different pieces of the Baltic data puzzle,” said Joni Kaitaranta, HELCOM’s data coordinator who oversees the project. 

“There’s already a lot of data on the Baltic scattered out there and there is a long tradition of reporting this data to HELCOM by the Contracting Parties according to data formats developed over time,” observed Kaitaranta. 

“By combining the data into a regional data product, we will get a pan-Baltic and holistic perspective, which will not only be useful for research and environmental assessments, but also for maritime spatial planning and blue growth-oriented development,” he said.

Baltic Data Flows will enhance the existing harmonization and sharing of data on the marine environment originating from existing sea monitoring programmes. Extending a previous pilot system by project partners ICES and SMHI, it will do so by harvesting national data on the marine environment in order to produce harmonized, regional datasets in a more automated and efficient way.

The project will also seek to enhance the capacity and ICT infrastructure of the competent national authorities for harmonising and sharing collected environmental monitoring data on the Baltic Sea by supporting development of database platforms.

Baltic Data Flows also seeks to increase capacities on quality control and publication of open data within the national organisations and providers hosting environmental data, notably by promoting the implementation of the FAIR principles stating that data should be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable.

To support wider dissemination of data collected within the Baltic, the harmonised datasets will eventually be harvested to and made accessible via the European Data Portal (EDP) by using DCAT-AP compliant metadata catalogues.

Co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility of the European Union’s Innovation And Networks Executive Agency(INEA) and led by HELCOM, the project will run for three years through September 2023. Further partners are ICESLHEISMHISpatineoStockholm University, and SYKE.

The update of the Baltic Sea Action plan takes another concrete step with the launch of two key initiatives on the sufficiency of measures to reach good environmental status

The has taken another concrete step with the launch, in February, of two central initiatives, namely the ACTION project and the HELCOM Platform on Sufficiency of Measures (HELCOM SOM Platform). Working closely together and drawing on interdisciplinary expertise from across the Baltic Sea region, both initiatives will be analysing if the measures that are currently in place are sufficient to achieve good environmental status for the Baltic Sea. The initiatives are a direct result from the decision taken earlier in 2018 by the HELCOM Ministers during the last , which provided the mandate to update the BSAP beyond its end date in 2021.”The new initiatives will provide the scientific underpinning to the next steps that will be decided to achieve good environmental status for the Baltic Sea,” said HELCOM Executive Secretary Monika Stankiewicz. The recent concludes that, in general, the Baltic Sea is still in a poor state, despite improvements and signs of recovery. Through the new initiatives, HELCOM and its partners will develop an approach for a regional analysis on the sufficiency of measures, to identify potential gaps in achieving HELCOM goals and objectives, and to estimate the cost-effectiveness of tentative new measures to fill these gaps. One approach to measure the gaps will be to develop “business as usual” (BAU) scenarios that will provide a better understanding of how far we are from achieving good environmental status when only implementing the currently agreed upon measures. The assessment of the sufficiency of measures will be a data-driven process, with expert-based evaluations complementing the analyses where required.The natural conditions – such as weather patterns – that influence the achievement of good environmental status (GES) in the Baltic Sea region will also be taken into account, including impacts of projected changes in climate. “While new measures to bridge the gap might be needed in the future, the current focus still remains on strengthening the implementation of the already agreed upon measures,” reminded Stankiewicz.About the HELCOM SOM Platform and the ACTION projectBoth the HELCOM SOM Platform and the ACTION project work closely together on the implementation of the sufficiency of measures analyses that will feed the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) update process.The HELCOM SOM Platform is constituted of experts drawn from various . It is chaired by Mr Urmas Lips from the Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia. The Vice-chair is Ms Soile Oinonen from the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE).Co-funded by the EU, the ACTION project is led by HELCOM, with its partners being the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Aarhus University (AU), Tallinn University of Technology (TTU), Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM), Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), University of Tartu (UT), and Klaipėda University, Marine Research Institute (KU).ACTION will run from January 2019 to December 2020. In addition to contributing to the update of the BSAP, it can also be used by HELCOM countries that are also EU members for updating and implementing their Programme of Measures.

The update of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) has taken another concrete step with the launch of two central initiatives, the ACTION project and the HELCOM SOM Platform. Launched in Helsinki during the end of February, both will focus on…

HELCOM expert interview: Heini Ahtiainen on Economic and Social Analysis (ESA)

Heini Ahtiainen is a project researcher on Economic and Social Analyses at the HELCOM Secretariat and project coordinator of the ACTION projectQuestion: What has economic and social analysis (ESA) to do with the flounder? Or: why has ESA become prevalent in HELCOM work?Heini Ahtiainen: In order to better comprehend the pressures on the Baltic, and how we can achieve good environmental status for our sea, we also need to understand the behaviour and actions of people. We get a lot out of the sea, but our activities can have damaging impacts on the marine environment. Often, the economic and social cost of this damage is not assessed. This is where ESA comes in: it reveals the cost of the environmental degradation. It also quantifies the benefits us humans could gain from a sea in a healthy state. Why should environmental benefits be quantified?When expressed in monetary terms, the environmental benefits of a healthy sea become comparable to any other economic activity. This helps to put things into perspective, especially when developing policies that also concern the marine environment, for instance in maritime spatial planning, where previous priorities were sometimes detrimental to the marine environment. How can ESA guide environmental policy-making?When developing measures to improve the marine environment, ESA can provide a good indication on the least cost way of achieving good environmental status. These cost-effectiveness analyses can greatly help to prioritize measures, to see what actions yield the highest results at low or reasonable financial effort. These are the measures most likely to succeed because they are the most implementable.What about the ecosystem-based approach?ESA is an integral part of the ecosystem-based approach. It shows the linkages between human activities, the environmental status of the sea, and human wellbeing. ESA also helps to highlight the ecosystem services provided by the sea that have a value – both economic, social and cultural – for us humans. Fish stocks for fisheries, or an attractive seascape for recreational activities are good examples.How is HELCOM involved in ESA work?HELCOM recently concluded a major assessment of the Baltic Sea, with the results published in the . For the first time, the economic and social contribution of the Baltic Sea to our economies and well-being was analysed comprehensively. The report also contains an analysis of the cost of degradation: benefits lost if GES not attained. HELCOM is also involved in an EU-funded project on maritime spatial planning in the region, . There, among other activities, we are collecting information on the impacts of marine spatial planning on economic, social and ecosystem services. HELCOM also runs an comprised of members from all Contracting Parties. Last but not least, the recently launched EU-funded that is led by HELCOM will develop ESA approaches for the update of the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP).Speaking of… What has ESA to do with the BSAP update?ESA contributes directly to the analysis of sufficiency of measures (SOM). It helps to see if good status is achievable with existing measures. For the update of the BSAP, it will be crucial to know what previous and current measures yielded what results, and at what cost. For potential new measures, cost-effectiveness analyses will help us to identify those which make most sense. The cheaper and more effective the measure, the better for attaining the ecological objectives of the BSAP.  

Heini Ahtiainen is a project researcher on Economic and Social Analyses at the HELCOM Secretariat Question: What has economic and social analysis (ESA) to do with the flounder? Or: why has ESA become prevalent in HELCOM work?

Strengthening capacities for global ocean assessments is the central theme at UN conference in New York

Monika Stankiewicz presenting HELCOM and the case of the Baltic Sea at the UN Regular Process multi-stakeholder dialogue event at UN headquarters in New York on 25 January 2019.To strengthen marine assessments around the world, the United Nations convened . HELCOM was invited to share its experience about assessing the Baltic Sea and managing a regional sea.HELCOM has recently concluded a major sea assessment spanning from 2011 to 2016, with the results compiled in the . During the conference, ocean-literacy emerged to be a central question, with calls by panellists and country representatives to the UN to increase, globally, what we know about the oceans and seas.The event in New York also highlighted the importance of good science-policy interaction at all levels for pertinent marine assessments.”Do researchers know what decisions makers need, and do decision makers understand what researchers can do,” asked Mr Ariel Troisi from the (IOC-UNESCO) in his opening keynote address, further stressing on the importance of bridging the gap between policy and science for better ocean assessments. “Ensuring policy relevance requires frequent interactions between scientists and managers – in the case of the Baltic Sea, HELCOM provides such a policy-science interface,” said Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary of HELCOM, during her panel presentation.According to Stankiewicz, policy relevance must be a major consideration when doing assessments. “In the Baltic Sea, the assessments directly serve various requirements and policy needs the member countries have, whether stemming from regional, European or global processes.”Broadening the scope of assessments to economic and social considerations was another issue addressed during the event by several participants, with a consensus forming on the relation between oceans in good health and economic value.”Better social and economic analysis is a missing piece of the puzzle in further integrating the marine policies and sectorial policies, and also to link implementation of different Sustainable Development Goals,” said Stankiewicz.The recent HELCOM State of the Baltic Sea assessment includes economic and social analyses, with findings showing that losses linked to eutrophication, and losses to revenue from recreational activities due to a sea in a poor state, could amount to EUR 4.4 billion and EUR 2 billion annually respectively.Another key ingredient for successful ocean assessments showed to be strong regional cooperation, with Monika Stankiewicz stressing that “Regional Sea Conventions and Actions Plans and other regional bodies help to translate global requirements to national implementation,” said Stankiewicz.The conference – – was organized by the  (Regular Process), and was open to representatives of States, United Nations organizations, intergovernmental organizations, and industry and civil society stakeholders. 

To strengthen marine assessments around the world, the United Nations convened a capacity building conference in New York from 24 to 25 January 2019. HELCOM was invited to share its experience about assessing the Baltic Sea and managing a regional sea.

HELCOM report on coastal fish in the Baltic Sea finds that only half of the assessed areas are in a good state

 HELCOM recently published a report assessing coastal fish in the Baltic, the . According to the report, only about half of the assessed areas obtain a good status.In general, the overall status of varies between geographical areas, with the north of the Baltic faring slightly better than the south. Key species and piscivores show a better status in more northern areas of the Baltic, compared to the south of the sea. For cyprinids, the status is often insufficient due to overabundance, especially in the north-eastern part of the Baltic.  “The report summarizes the current status of coastal fish communities in the Baltic Sea as derived from official monitoring programs of the ,” said Jens Olsson from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and who led the report. “It also contains short reviews on the factors regulating the communities and potential measures for the restoration and protection of coastal fish in the Baltic Sea.”To date, measures to restore and support coastal fish communities have barely been evaluated. As highlighted in the report, fishing regulations including permanent or temporary no-take areas, gear regulations, and habitat protection and restoration are measures that have shown to have a positive effects on fish populations.Coastal fish communities are regulated by a plethora of both natural and human-induced factors such as fishing, habitat exploitation, climate, eutrophication and interactions between species in the ecosystem.In being in the central part of the food-web, coastal fish are of key ecological and socio-economic importance, and their status often reflects the general health of coastal ecosystems.Depending on the sub-basin, the assessed key species were mainly perch and, in some southern areas, also flounder. The monitored piscivorous fish were perch, pike, pike-perch, burbot, cod and turbot. In the cyprinid family, roach and breams dominated the catch assessed. In the few areas where cyprinids do not occur naturally, mesopredatory fish were assessed instead, such as wrasses, sticklebacks, flatfishes, clupeids and gobies.”The information contained in this report is a valuable basis for following up on the objectives of the  and , as well as for the development of national management plans for coastal fish,” concluded Olsson.   –For more information:Jens OlssonSwedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU Aqua)jens.olsson@slu.se

HELCOM recently published a report assessing coastal fish in the Baltic. According to the report, only about half of the assessed areas obtain a good status.

BONUS and HELCOM advance the environmental agenda of the Baltic Sea and bolster cooperation with other sea basins at key conference

​To draw from the lessons of their respective initiatives for improving the Baltic Sea environment, and  invited stakeholders from the region to the  that took place in Copenhagen on 6 November 2018. With a focus on blue growth and the economic benefits of healthy seas, the aim of the conference was also to bridge the gap between science and policy for the improvement of the ecological state of the Baltic Sea.The conference also reinforced synergies and links between HELCOM, BONUS and key strategic actors in northern European regional seas, notably ,  and . Drawing from the achievements and lessons learned from the  (BSAP) – HELCOM’s strategic tool to restore the good ecological status of the Baltic Sea – and BONUS – a regional marine research and development programme, the BONUS-HELCOM conference set the premises for increased cooperation in the Baltic Sea region and beyond. At the conference, BONUS announced its transition towards the wider Baltic and North Sea Support and Coordination Action (BANOS CSA) that will broaden its scope from the Baltic Sea to more European regional seas. “The regional seas surrounding the European continent might seem very different, but they all provide the same marine ecosystem services,” said Andris Andrusaitis, BANOS CSA Coordinator and current BONUS Acting Executive Director, further stressing on the need for regional cooperation to address common pressures on the seas.”What happens in the Baltic should not stay in the Baltic. We have to actively engage in processes beyond the Baltic Sea and share our know-how in ocean conservation to impact on the global agenda,” echoed Monika Stankiewicz, the Executive Secretary of HELCOM.According to both Andrusaitis and Stankiewicz, BANOS CSA will advance cooperation between the Baltic and North Sea sub-basins, and is a an important step towards a stronger involvement of the Baltic Sea region at a worldwide level, notably on providing solutions for global ocean management.Set to start in November 2018, BANOS CSA is constituted of major research and innovation funds and organizations from 12 countries, as well as of four transnational bodies – HELCOM, ICES, JPI Oceans, and OSPAR. Funded within the EU’s Horizon 2020 framework and set to run for 30 month, BANOS CSA will enable joint Baltic Sea and North Sea research and innovation for healthier seas. “Our promise is to ensure that the future programme will achieve high level of scientific, administrative and financial integration, and generate strong impact as well as EU-level benefits,” said Andrusaitis. For its part, HELCOM also saw the conference as an occasion to gather views and experiences from its stakeholders on the update of the BSAP that is set to be renewed after 2021, its initial end date. “The joint BONUS-HELCOM conference is an opportunity to advance our plans on how to utilize the latest results of BONUS and other research projects for the purpose of the update of the BSAP,” said Stankiewicz.HELCOM and OSPAR have both recently published comprehensive assessments on the ecosystem health of the seas – the  and the  respectively. — HELCOMHELCOM is an intergovernmental organization made up of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union. Founded in 1974, it is the governing body of the Helsinki Convention. Its primary aims 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.  BONUSIn the core of BONUS is a long-term collaboration that supports sustainable development and implementation of HELCOM’s Baltic Sea Action Plan, the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the EU Blue Growth Agenda and other national, regional and European policy developments. BONUS is funded jointly by the eight member countries around the Baltic Sea and the EU by a total of EUR 100 million for the years 2011-2020. In November 2018, the Baltic Sea and North Sea Coordination and Support Action started preparing a framework for launching the joint Baltic Sea and North Sea research and innovation programme in 2021. , Facebook and Twitter: BONUSBaltic For more information:Andris Andrusaitis, Acting Executive Director, BONUS, t. +358 40 352 8163, e: andris.andrusaitis@bonuseeig.fiMaija Sirola, Communications Manager, BONUS, t. +358 40 352 0076, e:   

​To draw from the lessons of their respective initiatives for improving the Baltic Sea environment, BONUSand HELCOMinvited stakeholders from the region to the Joint BONUS-HELCOM Conference: Research and Innovation for Sustainability

​HELCOM State of the Baltic Sea report: despite improvements, the Baltic Sea is not yet in a good state

The recently updated HELCOM State of the Baltic Sea report is now , providing a complete insight about the ecological state of the Baltic Sea and the pressures affecting it. Overall, despite improvements, the sea is not yet in a good state, with eutrophication causing the major stress.Approved by all , the report is based on verified scientific evidence stemming from a recently concluded HELCOM assessment – the , or HOLAS II. It is the most comprehensive baseline currently available on the Baltic Sea.”The report holds a wealth of information about the ecological state of the Baltic Sea and the pressures affecting it, making it an important knowledge and decision-making tool for environmental policy makers, researchers and Baltic Sea stakeholders such as industries and businesses,” said Lena Bergström, the HELCOM HOLAS II Project Coordinator who led the publication of the report.For the first time, economic and social analyses (ESA) and the evaluation of cumulative impacts have also been included in the assessment, to help quantifying the benefits we get from the sea and the economic losses due to inadequate ecological status. “We gain a lot from the Baltic Sea: food, jobs, recreational activities among others. But the report also shows that our actions have a big impact on the ecological state of the sea,” said Bergström, further stressing on the correlation of healthy Baltic Sea resources and human welfare.According to the report, improvements are seen in the reduction of inputs of nutrients and hazardous substances into the Baltic Sea. The progress made so far shows that concerted Baltic Sea regional collaboration leads to tangible results.However, the ecological objectives set by the  seeking to attain a healthy Baltic Sea by 2021 have not yet been attained.The major pressure on the Baltic Sea remains eutrophication, affecting 97 percent of the waterbody. The current total losses attributed to eutrophication – excessive growth of algae that upsets the sea’s ecosystem – are estimated to be in the range of EUR 3.8 to 4.4 billion annually for the region.Plastic pollution – especially from microplastics –, pharmaceutical residues, underwater noise and effects from climate change are some of the current additional pressures.The report also finds that the Baltic Sea’s biodiversity is not in a good state. Fish stocks, marine habitats and mammals such as the harbour porpoise and the ringed seal are particularly affected.More actions are needed to improve the Baltic Sea’s environmental status. “It is very clear what needs to be done,” and who chaired the HOLAS II Core Team, the international HELCOM group preparing the report. “We need to work on implementing the Baltic Sea Action Plan and the further actions that have been agreed upon in the .”The  (BSAP) is the region’s strategic tool to attain a healthy Baltic Sea by 2021, focussing primarily on eutrophication, hazardous substances, biodiversity and maritime activities. Essentially based on the findings of the report, efforts are currently underway to update the BSAP beyond its due date in 2021. Go to the report:   — For immediate releaseFor more information, please contact:Dominik LittfassCommunication Secretarymedia(at)helcom.fi 

The recently updated HELCOM State of the Baltic Sea report is now publicly available, providing a complete insight about the ecological state of the Baltic Sea and the pressures affecting it. Despite improvements, the sea is not yet in a good state.

State of the Baltic Sea: Interview with Maria Laamanen

 Maria Laamanen is the Head of the Finnish Delegation to HELCOM and works at the Finnish Ministry of the Environment. She answers questions about the process that led to the report.What was your involvement in the State of the Baltic Sea report?I was the chair of the Core Group, which was kind of a steering group for developing the second holistic assessment. What were the main reasons for making the report?HELCOM published its first holistic assessment in 2010 and there was an agreement that there should be another holistic assessment to follow up on the state of the Baltic Sea and effectiveness of . Those contracting parties that are EU members needed this second holistic assessment for implementation of the . Can you tell us more about the process of making the report, how it came together?We started in the end of 2015. When you start a new project, it tends to be at first a little bit chaotic. I think it took one or two meetings that we got a better idea where we are aiming at and how to do it. We had quite lengthy discussions in what areas we are going to address for example relating to the Kattegat and how we should address different themes on the report. We had the example of the first holistic assessment as a basis of our work and the themes of the state of the Baltic Sea Action Plan gave the basic structure to the report. In addition, we decided to go deeper in to the theme of socio-economics of protecting the Baltic Sea because it was important to be able to show what the economic value of the Baltic Sea is and how it relates to a cost of protecting the Baltic Sea. We also improved some of the methods and tools we had, worked on further developing some and worked on the index that we use for assessing cumulative pressures on the sea. We got support from the EU that made it possible to conduct supporting projects for making the State of the Baltic Sea report. During the project, a number of thematic reports were developed, and indicators and data were updated. All of that is published but not all of it is dealt with in detail within the since there is so much material and the report aims to provide an overview. The report pulls together much of the relevant research that has been done and puts it in a simpler form to present it in an understandable fashion. If someone wants to go deeper than the report, one should go to read the thematic reports and check the data from the project.All in all, I am very proud of the report and the wide coverage of issues HELCOM achieved with it.What are the key findings and main outcomes?The State of the Baltic Sea report shows the status of the Baltic Sea in 2011—2016. It shows that we still have not reached an overall good status of the Baltic Sea. Our main challenges relate to eutrophication and changes in biodiversity that partly stem from the harm that eutrophication causes as well as pressures such as changes in fishing and variability in climate. On the other hand, we are going toward better status in many aspects. HOLAS II report trend graphs show for example that we have been able to decrease our loads of phosphorus and nitrogen. From the 1980s—1990s the phosphorus load has been cut by more than half and nitrogen load has been cut by almost a third.In addition, in terms of hazardous substances the situation is getting much better. To some extend our graphs may give a darker view of where we stand with hazardous substances because the criteria are rather tough and if even one indicator which has lower status than the standard for good status is sufficient to yield an overall assessment of the theme as non-good.We have also compiled information about marine litter. However, we have not been able to make assessments of whether the status is good or not because we have not agreed on the technical details of what is the standard for a good status yet.What needs to be done now? How can we achieve a good environmental status for the Baltic Sea?It is very clear what needs to be done: We need to work on implementing the Baltic Sea Action Plan and the further actions that have been agreed in HELCOM ministerial meetings, most recently in March of 2018.Due to some ecosystem related lags in the Baltic Sea, it is clear that we cannot reach a good status on all aspects of the environment by 2021, which is the target year of the Baltic Sea Action Plan. Nevertheless, we have three more years to go to 2021 and we need to use those years well and implement the agreed actions to make the status of the Baltic Sea as good as possible. After that an updated action plan which was agreed to be drafted by HELCOM Ministerial Meeting 2018 should ensure that we reached the good status by 2030.How will the results of the report affect the update of the Baltic Sea Action Plan?The report provides us the baseline information on the status of the Baltic Sea and tells us what are the pressures affecting the status. Wherever we have a non-good status, we need to look in the causes: what pressures we need to address with our measures and where are we with our implementation. After that, we can look into what updated or new measures we might need.The report does not give any specific measures but it points out what is important. For example, it points out that it is crucial that we reach nutrient load reduction targets that we have agreed upon in HELCOM. It is also very important that we enhance cross-sectoral aspects in sectors such as shipping and agriculture. It is important that there is coordination, coherence and cross reading between the different sectors.How will the outcomes affect future actions of HELCOM?Through the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan, for which the report serves as a basis. Through the report, we also have a very detailed and shared view on what the good status of the Baltic Sea means. We have quantified for very detailed technical aspects of the sea what is good and non-good and we have indicators for follow-up. I think that is great starting point. To my knowledge, no other international sea in the world has that. The report can offer an example how international cooperation can provide good knowledge of the state of the sea.What are the implications for the Finnish chairmanship?We have identified the updating of the Baltic Sea Action Plan as our . The State of the Baltic Sea report is very important to us, since it works as a basis for that work.The interview was conducted by Alisa Vänttinen from the Finnish Ministry of the Environment.

Maria Laamanen is the Head of the Finnish Delegation to HELCOM and works at the Finnish Ministry of the Environment. She answers questions about the process that led to the State of the Baltic Sea report.

HELCOM contributes to the preparation of the UN's second World Ocean Assessment

Attending the Regional Workshop on UN World Ocean Assessment II, at Malta University on 27 August 2018 (from the left): Irina Makarenko from the Black Sea Commission Secretariat, Lena Bergström and Monika Stankiewicz from the HELCOM Secretariat, and Jo Foden from the OSPAR Secretariat.A HELCOM team presented its expertise on marine management and sea assessment during a United Nations-led regional workshop held in Valetta, Malta from 27 to 28 August 2018. Preparing for the Second Global Integrated Marine Assessment (WOA II, or World Ocean Assessment II), the workshop specifically covered the North Atlantic, the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea regions.The are part of the so-called Regular Process – short for the United Nations . According to the UN, the assessments aim “to improve understanding of the oceans and to develop a global mechanism for delivering science-based information to decision makers and [the] public.”While the first cycle of the Regular Process focused on establishing a baseline for measuring the state of the marine environment, the second cycle, WOA II, was extended to evaluate trends in the marine environment and identify gaps. WOA II was launched by the UN General Assembly in December 2015, and runs from 2016 to 2020. During the Valetta workshop, HELCOM presented the findings from its recently concluded Second Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS II), an in-depth analysis of the ecological state of the Baltic Sea and the pressures it is affected by. The results were published in the newly released .The HOLAS II process and the HELCOM report already cover the majority of the aspects foreseen in WOA II for the Baltic Sea. HELCOM not only possesses deep knowledge about the Baltic Sea’s ecological state, but also about the management of a complex and regional sea assessment process. The Valetta meeting was opened by Carmelo Abela, the Maltese Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion. It has been attended by some 30 experts, with participants from Sweden, Estonia and the HELCOM Secretariat representing the Baltic Sea region. Alongside HELCOM for the Baltic Sea, three other regional seas conventions were covered by the workshop, namely OSPAR for the North-East Atlantic, the Mediterranean Action Plan, and the Black Sea Commission. WOA II aims to support informed decision-making and thus contribute to managing in a sustainable manner human activity that affect the oceans and seas, in accordance with international law, including the and other applicable international instruments and initiatives.

A HELCOM team presented its expertise on marine management and sea assessment during a United Nations-led regional workshop held in Valetta, Malta from 27 to 28 August 2018.

At UN conference in Canada, HELCOM shares its insights on marine litter and the management of sea areas

Plenary session considering conference room papers. © IISD/ENB | Franz Dejon HELCOM shared its insights on both marine litter and the management of sea areas in the Baltic Sea region during a UN conference held in Montreal, Canada earlier this July – the 22nd meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice of the Convention on Biological Diversity ().”Marine litter including plastics is a major priority on the HELCOM agenda,” said Monika Stankiewicz, HELCOM’s Executive Secretary, during the SBSTTA-22 side-event on marine litter and microplastics. “The regional goal agreed in HELCOM is to significantly reduce the amount of marine litter by 2025 and prevent harm from litter in the coastal and marine environment.”Stankiewicz presented the , and stressed the importance of regional coordination for monitoring of marine litter and developing indicators with quantitative threshold values.At a second side-event on area-based management tools (AMTs) and their role in achieving the and , Stankiewicz also advocated for a holistic approach to the management of sea areas to halt the decline of marine biodiversity in the Baltic Sea. Her presentation was based on the findings of the recently concluded “Second HELCOM Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea”, summarised in the that was just updated in July 2018. As highlighted during the side-event, various human activities impacting the state of the sea need to be considered in area-based management, and, when necessary, mitigated for the benefit of ecosystem functionality. This is particularly relevant for sea areas burdened by pressures such as eutrophication and chemical pollution.The current challenge in area-based management is to reconcile the different tools to form a coherent, ecosystem-based planning and management structure. Current legal means – such as marine protected areas (MPAs) and maritime spatial planning (MSP) – need to be closer integrated with softer planning approaches, such as Ecologically or Biologically significant Marine Areas (EBSAs), and with other non-spatial conservation measures.

HELCOM shared its insights on both marine litter and the management of sea areas in the Baltic Sea region during a UN conference held in Montreal, Canada earlier this July.