Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission


Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Latvia starts its two-year chairmanship of HELCOM today

As of 1 July 2022, Latvia will be the Chair of HELCOM until 30 June 2024. The chairmanship rotates between Contracting Parties every two years, in alphabetical order.

Ms Evija Šmite, Deputy Director General and the Director of Fisheries Control Department, State Environmental Service of Latvia starts as the new Chair of HELCOM. She has worked on matters regarding marine environment protection and fisheries control in the public administration of Latvia since 1997.

The priorities of the Latvian Chairmanship will focus on:

  1. HELCOM as an effective and well-functioning organisation of regional cooperation which is capable of action, including in unforeseen and force majeure situations.
  2. Implementation of the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP 2021), with particular attention paid to:
    1. protection of marine biodiversity
    2. advancing ecosystem based sustainable marine management by integration of environmental objectives with socio-economic goals
  3. Strengthening the role of regional cooperation in the context of international ocean governance. 

Read more here about the Latvian priorities for HELCOM in 2022-2024.

Ms. Ilona Mendzina has been selected as the Vice-Chair. She is the Deputy Director of the Nature Protection Department, and the Head of Species and Habitats Protection Division of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development.

A new HELCOM leaflet summarizing German chairmanship

Coincidingly, a leaflet on current HELCOM work and to celebrate the conclusion of the German Chairmanship, ending on 30 June 2022, is now free for downloading in our website:

HELCOM meetings remain suspended through 30 June 2022

The present Chairmanship of HELCOM, Germany, in agreement with the European Union and Contracting Parties to the Helsinki Convention that are Member States of the European Union, has opted to prolong the suspension of all official HELCOM meetings through 30 June 2022. The suspension was initially announced in a statement issued on 4 March 2022

Official meetings of all HELCOM bodies including the Helsinki Commission, Heads of Delegations, Working Groups, Experts Groups and other subsidiary bodies that were due to take place in the period between March through June 2022 are suspended and will be rescheduled. Participants of these meetings will be informed of any further developments in due course.


HOD 61-2021: HELCOM decision makers advance on BSAP implementation and HOLAS 3

The implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) and the next Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea were some of the key topics on which the HELCOM decision makers advanced during their fall meeting, the 61st Meeting of the Heads of Delegation (HOD 61-2021), held online from 8 to 9 December 2021.

To facilitate the implementation of the 2021 BSAP, several measures were agreed on at HOD 61-2022, including the preparation of a technical guidance document and the review of the structure of HELCOM. Planning of the implementation of the BSAP actions has already started in some of the main HELCOM groups.

Also related to the BSAP, the decision makers agreed on the implementation procedures and prioritization of actions regarding the Revised Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter (RAP ML), which is the main instrument for achieving the BSAP’s objectives on marine litter. A workshop on the RAP ML implementation is planned for April 2022.

Following its approval at HOD 61-2022, a project on strengthening the HELCOM framework on hazardous substances will start in July 2022 for a duration of 18 months. The project will notably develop an action plan for HELCOM work on hazardous substances by 2024, as provided for in the hazardous substances and litter segment of the 2021 BSAP. More broadly, the project will also support further HELCOM assessment work.

At HOD 61-2022, the HELCOM decision makers also ensured that the Third Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS 3) remains on track, in particular by approving the updated workplan, numerous additional indicators to be used in the assessment, and the organization of several workshops in early 2022 to facilitate the assessment process.

One of the pillars of HELCOM work and policy making, the HELCOM Holistic Assessments provide a comprehensive overview of the ecosystem health of the entire Baltic Sea over a specific time span. The third Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS 3) covers the assessment period 2016–2021. The results of HOLAS 3 are expected to be published in 2023. The next HOLAS assessments will also serve to keep track of the implementation and the effectiveness of the BSAP.

Several HELCOM recommendations were also endorsed during the meeting, with a final adoption expected at the next meeting of the Helsinki Commission in March of next year. In addition, the terms of reference for several HELCOM bodies were also updated or approved. 

The organization of several events was also approved during the meeting, such as the joint HELCOM and Baltic Earth Stakeholder Conference (HSC2022), which will be dedicated to climate change and is slated to be held online on 9–10 March 2022

HELCOM adopts the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan, charting a way forward for a healthy Baltic Sea

Charting a way forward for a healthy Baltic Sea, HELCOM has adopted the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) during the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting 2021 that was held in Lübeck, Germany, on 20 October 2021.

“This is a good day for the Baltic Sea and its marine environment,” says Rüdiger Strempel, the Executive Secretary of HELCOM, a regional sea organisation to which all Baltic Sea countries and the EU are a party of. “With the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan, we now have a clear-cut roadmap for improving the ecological state of our sea over the next ten years.”

Despite significant progress in the past decades, the Baltic Sea remains heavily polluted and affected by human pressures. The most pressing of these remains eutrophication, the excessive concentration of nutrients in the sea and main cause of harmful algal blooms, leading to the depletion of oxygen in deep waters and upsetting marine biodiversity.

Addressing biodiversity, eutrophication, hazardous substances, and sea-based activities such as shipping and fisheries, the updated HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan contains about 200 concrete actions that were developed to tackle the pressures the Baltic is facing today.

In addition, the plan now also addresses climate change, marine litter, pharmaceuticals, underwater noise, and seabed disturbance. “The update has also allowed us to include emerging and previously insufficiently addressed pressures,” Strempel notes.

The updated BSAP is also closely aligned with international and regional ecological objectives such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), or, for those of our Contracting Parties that are also EU members, the EU’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

All actions of the updated BSAP are to be implemented by 2030 at the latest. “A successful completion of the BSAP is a prerequisite for attaining the overall objective of a healthy Baltic Sea,” emphasizes Strempel.

Initially launched in 2007, the plan was revised when it became clear that the goal of “good environmental status” – a clean, healthy and productive Baltic Sea unaffected by pollution and other human pressures – would not be attained by 2021, as revealed by HELCOM’s latest assessment of the Baltic Sea.

“The BSAP has nonetheless delivered, and it remains one of the most effective tools at our disposal for achieving our environmental objectives,” says Strempel, adding that the original plan has contributed to reducing inputs of nutrients and hazardous substances. It has also led to a better protection of the Baltic Sea’s biodiversity, and to cleaner and safer shipping practices. “That is why the HELCOM Contracting Parties decided to build on and update the plan.”

Initiated in 2017, the update took about four years to complete, involving hundreds of national policy makers, experts and researchers from all Baltic Sea countries and the EU working under the umbrella of HELCOM in its various bodies. Stakeholders from civil society, NGOs, industry and the business sector were also closely involved in the update.

“The BSAP is not just an environmental success, but also a political one, demonstrating once again our capability for regional and cross-sectoral cooperation in the Baltic Sea area,” says Strempel, further stressing that the adoption of the plan was a major achievement also because it took place against the special challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The updated Baltic Sea Action Plan is publicly available on HELCOM’s website.

Update of the Baltic Sea Action Plan: HELCOM Ministers to adopt an ambitious programme of actions and measures for a healthy Baltic Sea

The way towards a healthy Baltic Sea will be charted during the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting 2021, to be held in Lübeck, Germany, on 20 October 2021, where the HELCOM Ministers and the EU Commissioner for the Environment are planning to adopt the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan.

“The Lübeck Ministerial Meeting is particularly significant because the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan will influence and guide our regional efforts towards a healthy Baltic Sea for the next decade,” said Rüdiger Strempel, Executive Secretary of HELCOM.

Initially adopted in 2007 by the nine Baltic Sea countries and the EU, who constitute the HELCOM Contracting Parties, the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) is HELCOM’s strategic programme of concrete actions and measures for a healthy Baltic Sea. The HELCOM Contracting Parties agreed on the update of the BSAP in 2018 when it became clear that the goal of good environmental status of the Baltic Sea would not be attained by 2021.

“The BSAP remains one of the most effective tools at our disposal for achieving the ecological objectives we have envisioned for the Baltic Sea, which is why the HELCOM countries decided to update it,” explained Strempel, adding that the current plan has contributed substantially to improving the state of the sea’s marine environment.

The updated BSAP will contain about 200 concrete actions and measures addressing biodiversity, eutrophication, hazardous substances, and sea-based activities such as shipping and fisheries. In addition, it will also include new actions on emerging or previously less focussed on pressures such as climate change, marine litter, pharmaceuticals, underwater noise, and seabed disturbance. All actions are to be implemented by 2030 at the latest.

“The update is intended to ensure that the BSAP remains fit-for-purpose in tackling the Baltic Sea’s challenges today and for many years to come,” said Strempel.

In Lübeck, in addition to the updated BSAP, the Ministers are also expected to adopt the Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy, the Regional Maritime Spatial Planning Roadmap 2021-2030, the HELCOM Science Agenda, and the HELCOM Guidelines for sea-based measures to manage internal nutrient reserves.

side-event on regional investments in the seascape, hosted by the NGOs WWF and Coalition Clean Baltic, will also be held in connection with the Ministerial Meeting. The event is open to all.

Generally, the HELCOM Ministerial Meetings take place every three years and are attended by the minister in charge of environmental matters or maritime affairs of each Baltic Sea country, and, for the EU, the Commissioner for the Environment. 

Germany currently holds the rotating chairmanship of HELCOM and will be hosting the Ministerial Meeting 2021 in the medieval city of Lübeck, famous as a major former Hanseatic trade hub in the Baltic Sea region.