Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

 

Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

First draft of the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan is unveiled to HELCOM decision-makers at HOD 59-2020

Entering a final stretch, another major milestone was crossed last week when the first full draft of the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) was presented to the organization’s decision-makers during the autumn meeting of the HELCOM Heads of Delegation (HOD 59-2020) that took place online.

Building on the existing plan, the updated BSAP is expected to maintain and adapt the current structure and segments that seek to reflect the pressures stemming from land (“Eutrophication” and “Hazardous substances and litter”) and from our activities at sea (“Sea-based activities”) as well as the state of the environment (“Biodiversity and ecosystems”).

In addition, the updated plan is due to feature a segment on horizontal actions having an incidence on the four main segments. These are climate change, monitoring, maritime spatial planning, economic and social analysis, and financing.

Furthermore, all measures and actions contained in the new plan are intended to be implemented by 2030 at the latest. 

The updated BSAP is expected to be adopted by the Ministers of the HELCOM Contracting Parties during the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting that will be held in Lübeck, Germany on 20 October 2021.

With its set of targets for protecting biodiversity and reducing the pressures affecting the Baltic, as well as its number of concrete measures, the BSAP remains one of the most effective instruments for achieving the HELCOM ecological objectives, offering a long-term vision and strategic orientation for attaining good environmental status in the Baltic. 

The original plan, adopted in 2007, can be credited with significantly reducing inputs of nutrients and hazardous substances, improving the protection of biodiversity, and boosting cleaner and safer shipping practices. 

At HOD 59-2020, the decision-makers also approved a draft of the HELCOM Science Agenda that is meant to support the implementation of the BSAP and other HELCOM processes, by identifying the scientific knowledge needs related to the Baltic marine environment and which are foreseen to surface in the next 10 years.

Meant to be launched alongside the new BSAP, the first draft of the Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategywas also presented during the meeting. In a bid to curb eutrophication, the strategy seeks to minimize the run-off of nutrients, stemming mainly from agricultural sources such as fertilizers, to the Baltic Sea by keeping them in a closed loop. 

More good news: the Heads of Delegation announced the removal of HELCOM Hot Spot n°42, the Riga wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), from its list of pollution sites

More than EUR 200 million were invested in the plant over the last 20 years, leading to a significant reduction of the discharges of nutrients and hazardous substances to the Baltic via the Lielupe river. The WWTP is now complying with EU regulations and almost fully meets the more stringent HELCOM targets on water purification. 

The Riga WWTP had been added to the list of significant pollution sites due to insufficient treatment of wastewater and a large share of untreated municipal wastewater being released to the environment. 

The HELCOM Heads of Delegation further approved the draft of a key regional instrument for fighting pollution incidents at sea, the Joint Inter-Regional Marine HNS Response Manual which will replace the current HELCOM Response Manual Volume II. A guideline for addressing and coordinating response to major accidents such as oil or chemical spills, the manual is expected to be adopted during the next meeting of the Helsinki Commission in March 2021.

On shipping, and more specifically on the management of ballast water which is a major source of introduction of alien species to the Baltic Sea, the Heads of Delegation further approved the revised HELCOM-OSPAR Joint Harmonised Procedure on the granting of exemptions under International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (JHP).

The procedure is supported by an online decision tool that gives shipping professionals a quick overview of the risk of introducing non-indigenous species (NIS) through ballast water between two ports. Co-developed with OSPAR and recently updated, the tool covers both the North and Baltic Seas.

The collaboration between HELCOM and OSPAR comes at a time when both organizations are actively seeking to strengthen their partnership, a fact particularly welcomed during HOD 59-2020.

Experts from the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina also presented their recent discussion paper on underwater archaeology “Traces under Water”, highlighting the mutual benefits of protecting both the marine environment and underwater heritage from the common pressures arising from ammunitions, ghost nets and eutrophication.

Chaired by Germany, HOD 59-2020 was attended by participants from all Contracting Parties, by Observers from Baltic Farmers’ Forum on Environment (BFFE), Baltic Sea Advisory Council (BSAC), Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference (BSPC), Baltic Sea States Subregional Co-operation (BSSSC) & CPMR Baltic Sea Commission, Coalition Clean Baltic (CCB), Cruise Lines International Association Europe (CLIA Europe), Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP), Global Water Partnership Central and Eastern Europe and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and by invited guests.

HELCOM publishes reports on chemical contaminants

In a bid to better understand the effects of certain hazardous substances on the Baltic Sea, HELCOM, in collaboration with Stockholm University’s Baltic Sea Centre, has compiled the latest science on selected chemical contaminants.

The results were published in four reports, namely on dioxins and PCBsbrominated flame retardantsPFOS and PFAS, and diclofenac.

“We must identify the major sources of the hazardous substances and understand how they move in the ecosystems to be able to do something about the problem,” said Emma Undeman, a researcher at Stockholm University and lead author of the reports. 

The reports give insights into the sources and pathways to the sea of the addressed substances, as well as on how their concentrations have changed in the Baltic Sea over time.

Dioxins and PCBs, mainly by-products from industrial processes, primarily stem from atmospheric emissions, further persisting in the environment and accumulating in the food chain. This is a particular cause for concern since these substances are known for their adverse effects on the nervous, immune and endocrine systems of living organisms.

The levels of brominated flame retardants (PBDE) – which are now either banned or regulated but were heavily used in the past as additives to prevent ignition and delay spread of fire such as in furniture and curtains – seem to be declining, but trends show that it could take up to 40 years for these contaminants to reach safe levels in the Baltic Sea.

With regard to PFOS and PFAS, used for instance in metal coatings such as Teflon or in firefighting foams, the main pathways are discharges from wastewater treatment plants, and runoff from contaminated sites via groundwater and drainage ditches. Research on PFOS in Baltic Sea biota further indicates that transport to the sea has dropped but that concentrations have not yet declined, pointing towards a high persistence in the marine environment.

Diclofenac, a widely used painkiller that is water soluble, mainly enters the sea through wastewater treatment plants which have a low removal rate of the drug. Despite good absorption by the human body when ingested, diclofenac is overused, leading to significant excretions reaching sewer systems. Some of the diclofenac in wastewater may also originate from dermal application which has a low absorption rate by the body. 

The four reports support the update of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP), HELCOM’s strategic programme of actions for restoring good ecological status of the Baltic marine environment. The BSAP is due to be updated in 2021.

Information from the reports will notably serve to evaluate the efficiency of currently implemented measures under the present BSAP, and for suggesting additional measures needed to improve the Baltic Sea’s state in regard to the reduction of concentrations of hazardous substances. 

Download the reports:

Marine litter, underwater noise and chemical contamination are addressed at HELCOM PRESSURE in Brussels

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©Aliaksandr Marko – stock.adobe.com

​Marine litter, underwater noise and chemical contamination of the marine environment were prominently featured on the agenda of the PRESSURE 11-2019 meeting held in Brussels from 22 to 25 October. The meeting was further complemented by two workshops on hazardous substances and marine litter.

“Marine litter is posing a threat to the Baltic Sea’s biodiversity, so it needs to be solved rapidly,” said Dmitry Frank-Kamenetsky, adding that the issue is being successfully addressed through the implementation of the HELCOM Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter.

In Brussels, progress in the implementation of the plan was particularly acknowledged, and further steps were outlined to deal with derelict fishing gear, to improve stormwater management – crucial in addressing microplastics – and to address expanded polystyrene, one of the top litter items found on the entire Baltic Sea coast.

“Since rivers are significant pathways bringing litter and all sorts of substances to the sea, we also need to look upstream and beyond our shores,” said Frank-Kamenetsky, echoing the common view that further cooperation with river basin management authorities needs to be strengthened to address the marine litter issue.

Furthermore, a new draft of the action plan to mitigate manmade underwater noise was presented at PRESSURE 11-2019. “Although the document is still in a drafting phase, it is a first step in the HELCOM process that may eventually lead to concrete measures to ease the effects of man-made sound and noise on aquatic wildlife,” said Frank-Kamenetsky.

Marine mammals and certain type of fish are particularly affected by underwater noise since they rely heavily on hearing throughout their entire life, such as for geolocation, communicating, feeding or mating.

Chemical contamination of the marine environment was another of the key environmental pressures emphasized at PRESSURE 11-2019, highlighting the vast variety of chemicals currently used in industries and households. New products are continuously flooding the markets, and their effects on the marine environment aren’t always clear.

At the meeting, the HELCOM members therefore welcomed the progress on a knowledge base on micropollutants including pharmaceuticals currently in development, and concluded that the HELCOM framework on hazardous substances might require a significant revision to be able to respond to threats posed by these new chemicals.

Moreover, a new assessment of the input of nutrients to the Baltic sea was presented at PRESSURE 11-2019, illustrating the substantial reduction of nutrient inputs since the reference period. The assessment shows that inputs of nitrogen and phosphorus to the Baltic Sea were reduced by 14 and 24 percent respectively since early 2000.

The highest nitrogen input reduction in this period was observed in the Danish Straits (24 percent) and Kattegat (21 percent), while the highest reduction of phosphorus load was noted in the Gulf of Finland (51 percent) and Baltic Proper (22 percent).

The reduction indicates the joint effort of all HELCOM countries to reduce input of nutrients and commitment to abate eutrophication – the major threat for the Baltic Sea. But the assessment shows that the nutrient input targets for the whole Baltic Sea have not yet achieved.

PRESSURE 11-2019, the “11th Meeting of the Working Group on Reduction of Pressures from the Baltic Sea Catchment Area (HELCOM Pressure Group),” was hosted by the European Commission in Brussels.

The HELCOM Pressure Group seeks to provide the necessary technical background to the work on inputs of nutrients and hazardous substances from both diffuse and point sources on land, including follow-up of the implementation of the HELCOM nutrient reduction scheme. It currently also works on emerging challenges such as underwater noise and plastic pollution.

Read the outcome of PRESSURE 11-2019

HELCOM Hot Spots: two Kaliningrad pollution sites get wiped off the list at key HELCOM meeting

​Two former pollution sites located in the Kaliningrad region in Russia were approved for removal from the HELCOM Hot Spot list by the HELCOM Heads of Delegation, one of the decision-making instances, during their last meeting held in Helsinki from 18 to 19 June 2019 – the 56th Meeting of the HELCOM Heads of Delegation(HOD 56-2019).

The first site to be removed from the list is the Kaliningrad wastewater treatment plant, or HELCOM Hot Spot No. 67. Newly constructed in December 2015, the upgraded wastewater treatment plant of Kaliningrad started to be fully operational by the end of 2016, with all of Kaliningrad’s sewage water redirected to the new plant. 

“The new treatment plant fully complies with the HELCOM recommendation on municipal wastewater,” said Natalia Tretiakova, the Russian Head of Delegation to HELCOM. With its population of 574,000 people, the city of Kaliningrad was the biggest source of untreated wastewater input to the Baltic Sea in the Kaliningrad region until the launch of the new plant. 

In the same meeting, the deletion of HELCOM Hot Spot No. 69, the Cepruss pulp and paper mill in Kaliningrad, Russia, was also approved. Cepruss was added to the list because of significant discharges of pollutants stemming from the processing of pulp and paper into the Pregolya river. The site ceased all production in 2011.  

Since 1992, HELCOM maintains a list of significant pollution sites around the Baltic Sea – the HELCOM Hot Spots. Today, about three quarters of all hotspots have been cleaned up. The most notorious Hot Spots are point sources such as municipal facilities and industrial plants, but the programme also covers pollution from agricultural areas and rural settlements, and sensitive areas such as coastal lagoons and wetlands where special environmental measures are needed. 

Furthermore, in Helsinki, the update of the Baltic Sea Action Plan(BSAP) featured prominently on the meeting’s agenda, with the Heads of Delegation moving forward on the structure of the updated plan. Maintaining the same level of ambition for the updated BSAP was a particular point of emphasis.

HOD 56-2019 also adopted the revised HELCOM Recommendation 28E/13 on Introducing Economic Incentives as a Complement to Existing Regulations to Reduce Emissions from Ships. Where implemented already, economic instruments have proven to increase environmentally friendly shipping practices beyond the existing legislation. Some of these methods include differentiated port fees and fairway dues, differentiated taxation of marine fuels and on-shore power supply. 

The creation of an expert network on marine protected areas (MPAs) – HELCOM Network for Marine Protected Area Management (EN MPA MANET) – was also approved during the meeting in Helsinki. The new network will respond to the need for a concerted approach on the management of MPAs across the Baltic Sea region, especially for transboundary areas. It will provide expert input to HELCOM work related to MPA management, as well as conservation of habitats, biotopes and species in general, the relevant Ecological Objectives in the Baltic Sea Action Plan.

Bidding farewell to the current HELCOM Executive Secretary, Ms Monika Stankiewicz, who is due to leave the organization in July 2019, the Heads of Delegation singled out her excellent performance and acknowledged her instrumental role in lifting HELCOM to where it is today.

Stankiewicz has been at the HELCOM Secretariat since 2006 when she started as Professional Secretary for Maritime Affairs. She assumed the position of Executive Secretary in 2012 until 2019. She will be succeeded by Mr Rüdiger Strempel.

At PRESSURE 10-2019, the HELCOM group dealing with pressures on the Baltic Sea ploughs through nutrients, stormwater and microlitter

Nutrient reduction is central point of discussion at PRESSURE 10-2019.Kaliningrad city gets recommendation to be removed from HELCOM hotspot list because of reduction of nutrient inputs.

Expanded polystyrene will receive special attention from HELCOM. Nutrients, stormwater and microlitter were headlining the Tenth Meeting of HELCOM Working Group on Reduction of Pressures from the Baltic Sea Catchment Area (PRESSURE 10-2019) that was held in Tallinn from 9 to 12 April 2019.

High nutrient load from land-based sources – the central discussion point of PRESSURE 10-2019 – remains one of the largest pressures on the Baltic Sea, leading to eutrophication that causes growth of toxic algae and oxygen depletion.

At PRESSURE 10-2019, the delegates proposed to advance regional policy instruments to inspire additional efforts for minimizing this environmental pressure on the marine ecosystem. The proposals include further development of the and its follow up system, and of the HELCOM nutrient recycling strategy. will be key for curbing eutrophication.

Specifically, attention was directed to the effectiveness of implemented or planned measures to reduce nutrient load on the marine environment, as well as their sufficiency to achieve targets set by the Baltic Sea Action Plan. The delegates also agreed to intensify cooperation on nutrient reduction with river basin management authorities, for instance through workshops.

The alignment of nutrient reduction targets for river basins with the ones set for the marine environment was also foreseen as a tool for targeted measures to effectively decrease the nutrient load in the Baltic Sea.

The HELCOM delegates also welcomed the first official results from the newly commissioned waste water treatment plant in Kaliningrad. Two years of constant environmental monitoring showed that nutrient input to the Baltic Sea from the city of Kaliningrad was reduced by about 200 tonnes of phosphorus and 1200 tonnes of nitrogen annually.

Because of the improvement, the delegates of PRESSURE 10-2019 recommended to remove the Kaliningrad municipality from the HELCOM Hotspot list where it is currently listed.

“The HELCOM list of hot spots now stands a good chance to become shorter,” said Dmitry Frank-Kamenetsky, the Professional Secretary handling nutrient related issues at HELCOM. On stormwater, PRESSURE 10-2019 agreed to revise the related HELCOM Recommendation and to open it to reflections on microlitter and resilience to climate change.

Further on marine litter, Denmark presented a comprehensive study on expanded polystyrene (EPS) which is a widespread litter item found in the Baltic Sea. The delegates subsequently agreed to start work on regional measures to deal with EPS litter.

On underwater noise, PRESSURE 10-2019 agreed on the structure of the Action Plan on Underwater Noise which will be elaborated by 2020. The plan will specifically look into keeping marine habitats undisturbed by underwater noise.PRESSURE 10-2019 was hosted by the Ministry of the Environment of Estonia in Tallinn, and was chaired by Lars Sonesten, Chair of the .

Nutrients, stormwater and microlitter were headlining the Tenth Meeting of HELCOM Working Group on Reduction of Pressures from the Baltic Sea Catchment Area (PRESSURE 10-2019) that was held in Tallinn from 9 to 12 April 2019.

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 progresses firmly towards reducing input of pollutants into the Baltic Sea, but more work lies ahead

The HELCOM PRESSURE group met in Berlin to discuss the reduction of pollution loads on the Baltic Sea.Specific attention was placed on river basins, input of nutrients, and hazardous substances.The progress at the Krasni Bor HELCOM hot spot was also addressed.HELCOM came closer to its goals of reducing pollution loads on the Baltic Sea, as acknowledged during a key event held in Berlin from 18 to 20 April 2018, the Eighth Meeting of the HELCOM Working Group on Reduction of Pressures from the Baltic Sea Catchment Area (). The PRESSURE group is responsible for devising solutions to reduce land-based pollution affecting the Baltic Sea.The group discussed potential measures to advance towards the maximum allowable inputs set by the . Specific attention was paid to the cooperation with river basin management authorities and to possible ways of elaborating nutrient reduction targets for river basins. These will be useful for developing river basin management plans. It is expected that this broader approach at the river basin level will increase the readiness of upstream municipalities to support the implementation of the (BSAP).Due to the cross-cutting nature of nutrients management, and bearing in mind that the agricultural sector is a main source of land-based nutrient input to the Baltic Sea, the PRESSURE group also worked out a proposal for close cooperation with , the HELCOM group responsible for agricultural matters.With regard to the implementation of the , the central emphasis was placed on the planning of a regional strategy for nutrients recycling. The PRESSURE group also started planning the implementation of the new commitment, with the aim to develop a risk assessment framework for the management of internal nutrient reserves.Furthermore, PRESSURE 8-2018 addressed the input of hazardous substances (HS) into the Baltic Sea, acknowledging the steady decrease of inputs of conventional pollutants such as mercury, lead and cadmium. However, it also noted the worrying rise of new HS such as pharmaceuticals and persistent organic compounds. The group endorsed a draft assessment for the input of selected hazardous substances as well as for a new HELCOM pre-core indicator on diclofenac. In addition, participants considered to look into off-shore sources of pollutants and, as a first step, into the potential adverse effects of anti-fouling systems. They also followed up of the implementation of the Regional Action Plan (RAP) on marine litter. Dredging and depositing operations at sea, under water noise and other topics were also discussed. One specific theme of the meeting was the current state of the toxic landfill Krasny Bor located in the vicinity of St. Petersburg, Russia. Participants welcomed the comprehensive update by Russia on the current status of this “HELCOM hot spot”, including the work undertaken so far to minimize environmental risks and to monitor the site. The results of international cooperation and support on Krasni Bor were presented by the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO) which is the coordinator of the international efforts currently taking place at the site.A group of German experts also presented the results of the verification of the environmental monitoring system at the landfill. In the past two years, international experts have continuously visited the site, doing environmental sampling and inspecting the maintenance and monitoring procedures.The meeting in Berlin was the first consultation of the group after the adoption of the earlier this year in Brussels, where HELCOM countries notably renewed their commitment to the BSAP.

HELCOM came closer to its goals of reducing pollution loads on the Baltic Sea, as acknowledged during a key event held in Berlin from 18 to 20 April 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.

Major Baltic Sea policies reviewed ahead of HELCOM Ministerial Meeting

Regional ministers will discuss the state and future of the Baltic Sea marine environment in MarchHeads of Delegation of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission meet this week to prepare ministerial outcomeHow will the Baltic Sea region respond to the call to action for the marine environment, set by the United Nations Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development? What efforts should be prioritized in order to achieve the aim of the – a healthy Baltic Sea by 2021? How should the Action Plan be adjusted based on the newest scientific knowledge and the challenges ahead? These are among the questions on the table at the 53rd HELCOM Heads of Delegation meeting today and tomorrow. The questions form the basis of the negotiations ahead of the in Brussels on 6 March, bringing together the responsible ministers from the Baltic Sea countries and the EU Commissioner for Environment. The Heads of Delegation meeting this week will focus in particular on the Declaration to be adopted at the Ministerial Meeting, which will frame the work for the Baltic Sea marine environment in the years to come.Targets: Baltic Sea Action Plan and Sustainable Development GoalsAmong the central background information for the discussions is a report following up on the actions agreed upon in the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) in 2007 and linking them to the current state of the Baltic Sea. According to the latest assessments, much has been accomplished, and there are some encouraging signals in the ecosystem, but the efforts so far have not led to the recovery of the Baltic Sea. The Heads of Delegation will discuss how to achieve stronger follow-through on the BSAP in order to reach the common goals.The Heads of Delegation will also consider how to adjust the BSAP in the light of new information. As science advances, policy-makers are better equipped than before to focus on those issues that cause the greatest harm and are the most widely distributed. There is also more and more knowledge about climate change and other issues that are developing or will emerge in the future. The adjusted plan for action will take into account the changing situation and highlight the most important measures to take. The questions about the BSAP are also central to the global context of the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015. Governments have the primary responsibility for taking action to achieve the goals, while Regional Sea Conventions like HELCOM are well suited for considering new actions across borders in pursuit of those SDGs that relate to marine and water issues. The Baltic Sea countries have agreed to use HELCOM as the regional arena for coordinating work on ocean-related SDGs. In order to reach SDG 14 – “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources” – the Baltic Sea region needs both to accelerate work towards the goals of the Baltic Sea Action Plan and to adapt the plan based on the newest and best available science. HELCOM will use the Sustainable Development Goals as guidance when setting new priorities and targets. Preparing for the Ministerial MeetingThe outcome of the discussions between the Heads of Delegation will be an important stepping stone towards reaching Ministerial agreement. The meeting this week aims to put everything in place for the Ministerial negotiations in March.Preparations for the Ministerial Meeting have been ongoing since the meeting of high-level representatives of the Baltic Sea states and the EU in February 2017. However, the background efforts and the scientific data that underpin the discussions stretch back over several years and includes a multitude of projects. Among these are the large-scale , which will be finalized by mid-2018.  “The background work for the Ministerial Meeting draws together all the different roles and processes of HELCOM: it is a hub that provides information about the Baltic Sea environment, that produces recommendations and policies based on this information in order to improve the state of the ecosystem, and that supervises that agreements are upheld. HELCOM is the bridge between science and policy in the Baltic Sea, and the Ministerial Meeting is the highest point on that bridge,” says Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary at the HELCOM Secretariat.All the meeting documents will be available in the HELCOM Meeting portal after the meeting, no login required:  * * *Note for editors:The 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:Monika Stankiewicz Executive Secretary HELCOM monika.stankiewicz(at)helcom.fiSara Estlander Communication Coordinator HELCOM +358 40 482 6103 sara.estlander(at)helcom.fi

Regional ministers will discuss the state and future of the Baltic Sea marine environment in March – Heads of Delegation of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission meet this week to prepare ministerial outcome