Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission


Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Marine litter and underwater noise top the agenda of PRESSURE 14-2021, the HELCOM Working Group dealing with pressures on the Baltic Sea

The PRESSURE 14-2021 participants

Marine litter and underwater noise topped the agenda of PRESSURE 14-2021, the meeting of the HELCOM Pressure Working Group dealing with pressures on the Baltic Sea, and which was held online from 13 to 16 April 2021. 

A revised full version of the HELCOM Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter (RAP ML) was presented at PRESSURE 14-2021. Based on the initial plan that was adopted in 2015 and incorporating the lessons learnt from all previous implementation efforts, the updated version is due to be adopted in October 2021 during the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting 2021, alongside the new Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP). 

PRESSURE 14-2021 further recognized the successful implementation of some of the actions under the current RAP ML, notably on including HELCOM guidelines on marine litter in national and local waste prevention and waste management plans, as well as sharing best practices on waste management. 

Other completed actions under the RAP ML include the development of best practices on the disposal of scrapped pleasure boats and handling of expanded polystyrene, the identification of key practical aspects of prevention of litter, and the retrieval and the management of ghost nets, among others. 

On underwater noise, a factor affecting species that are reliant on hearing, such as harbour porpoises, seals and some species of fish, wide support was expressed for the draft Regional Action Plan on Underwater Noise that is currently under development. The plan is due to be adopted with the BSAP later this year, along with an accompanying HELCOM Recommendation.

PRESSURE 14-2021 further developed recommendations on the regional policy document on hazardous substances that provides guidance on the upcoming HELCOM framework for hazardous substances. The framework is being developed to provide a more efficient and future-proof response to threats to the marine environment stemming from hazardous substances, especially from new chemicals. 

During the meeting, the topics of physical damage to the seafloor, the next HELCOM holistic assessment (HOLAS III), the update of the Baltic Sea Action Plan, eutrophication and issues pertaining to nutrients such as the Nutrient Recycling Strategy and the HELCOM framework on internal nutrient load management were also discussed. 

The meeting was attended by all HELCOM Contracting Parties and observers from Coalition Clean Baltic (CCB), Baltic Farmers’ Forum on Environment (BFFE), the Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP), European Federation of National Associations of Water and Wastewater Services (EurEau), Race for the Baltic, and John Nurminen Foundation, as well as by invited guest from Baltic Nest Institute (BNI) and the City of Helsinki. 

HELCOM joins UN initiative on marine litter

HELCOM has recently become a member of a United Nation initiative on land-based pollution, the Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML).

Bringing together various stakeholders dealing with marine litter and microplastics challenges, the GPML partnership was launched at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012. The GPML is hosted under the umbrella of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The GPML further seeks to facilitate the implementation of the commitments expressed in the Manila Declaration, under which 65 countries pledged to develop policies to reduce and control wastewater, marine litter and pollution from fertilizers.

Marine litter and microplastics are of particular concern in the Baltic Sea. In response, HELCOM has adopted its own Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter (RAP ML) in 2015. The plan is currently under review. 

HELCOM is also involved in an EU-funded initiative on microplastics, FanpLESStic-sea, for which it has recently published a review of existing research and policies on the tiny plastic particles.

The updated HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP), due to be adopted in October 2021, is also expected to include new objectives and measures on marine litter.

HELCOM launches its BLUES project to support attaining good environmental status in the Baltic Sea

Good environmental status, or GES, and a Baltic Sea in healthy state are at the core of the HELCOM BLUES project that was officially launched online from 2 to 4 February 2021. Co-funded by the European Union and led by HELCOM, the Baltic-wide effort will run through 2022, for a total period of two years. 

To help attaining GES in the Baltic Sea, the HELCOM BLUES project will support the development of new and regionally coordinated measures addressing various pressures affecting the sea. It will also back assessments of the state of the Baltic through improved monitoring, notably on biodiversity, marine litter and underwater noise. 

“HELCOM BLUES is an opportunity to fill the gaps we have identified so far during our journey towards good environmental status in the Baltic Sea,” said Jannica Haldin, the overall project manager and HELCOM senior expert dealing with biodiversity matters. HELCOM is concluding its first analysis ever of the sufficiency of measures (SOM) currently in place for easing the pressures on the sea, with the results expected to inform the work of the new project.

“GES is a Baltic-wide objective, and we can only achieve it through a collective effort and regional cooperation,” said Jana Wolf, the HELCOM project coordinator in charge of the day-to-day operations of HELCOM BLUES. In total, 14 partners and seven subcontractors  with various backgrounds such as policy, research, academia or civil society and hailing from six Baltic Sea countries are involved in the project.

“The project also closely links to the big processes related to GES in the Baltic such as the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MFSD), the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) and the next Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS III),” said Haldin.

On the MFSD, the specific requests expressed by the EU in its initial call for project proposals – which is at the origin of HELCOM BLUES – were taken into account, notably on the development of effective regional measures to reduce existing pressures to the Baltic Sea, with a focus on biodiversity, marine litter and underwater noise. Furthermore, all results of the project will be made accessible to the Baltic Sea countries who are also EU member states to support their national obligations under the MSFD.

The outcomes of the project will also underpin the implementation of the updated Baltic Sea Action Plan that is due to be adopted in October 2021 by providing monitoring data and guidance on the implementation of measures. 

It will also support HELCOM’s next Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS III) covering the period of 2016 to 2021. The project will notably provide improved assessment data, for instance by improving the capacity for biodiversity reporting and the development of indicators on marine litter and underwater noise. 

Project activities

The project is built around seven activities:

  • Activity 1 – Analyses to support effective regional measures
  • Activity 2 – Improved regional assessment of biodiversity  
  • Activity 3 – Support for, and harmonisation of, regional work on MSFD Descriptor 10 (marine litter)  
  • Activity 4 – Support for, and harmonisation of, regional work on MSFD Descriptor 11 (underwater noise) 
  • Activity 5 – Data accessibility 
  • Activity 6 – Dissemination 
  • Activity 7 – Project Coordination 

More info

Report on microplastics in the Baltic Sea provides a common baseline for policy-makers and researchers

With the recent publication of the Review of existing policies and research related to microplastics under the FanpLESStic-sea project, policy-makers and researches in the Baltic Sea region dealing with microplastics now have a common baseline to support their work.  

“I was surprised by the large amount of existing research and projects in the Baltic Sea,” said Aaron Vuola, the HELCOM project coordinator in FanpLESStic-sea who led the publication, adding that it shows how pressing the issue of microplastics is in the region.

The review, for which a summary for policy makers is also available, establishes a comprehensive baseline on the existing policies related to microplastics on global, Baltic Sea, EU, and national levels. The report also showcases some of the existing research on microplastics at these various levels.

“This review confirms the need for harmonized monitoring methods if we want to be able to compare studies between regions and different matrices, or establish baselines for current microplastic levels,” said Vuola.

According to the report, the lack of commonly agreed methodologies for monitoring, sampling and analyses of microplastics is a major concern and calls for urgent need for harmonized, cost-efficient, and sufficiently robust monitoring methodologies for microplastics.

Currently, microplastics are not directly addressed through any global instrument even though several existing instruments cover some aspects related to marine litter and hence microplastics. However, the European Union is working towards restricting the use of intentionally added microplastic particles to consumer or professional use products.

On the Baltic Sea level, actions on microplastics are contained in the HELCOM Action Plan on Marine Litter.

Also highlighted by the report are the impacts of microplastics on humans through food chain or other means, still largely unknown and calling for more research.

“There is already lot of evidence of the negative impacts of microplastics to support the need for global, EU and national level regulation, but we also have to reduce the plastic use in general and address the problematic products in earlier phase of their life-cycle before they become marine litter and microplastics,” said Vuola.

In addition to providing an overview of the regulatory framework and useful information on topics such as sources and types of microplastics, the report can be used as a database for large amount of concluded research on various topics around the issue of microplastics.

FanpLESStic-sea, an EU-funded Interreg project, works towards preventing and decreasing the pollution of microplastics in water in the Baltic Sea. In the project, HELCOM leads the work package on reviewing existing research on microplastic in the aquatic environment.

On marine litter, a G7 workshop in France highlights the central role of Regional Seas Conventions

The central role of Regional Seas Conventions such as HELCOM in the fight against the global pressure of marine litter was underscored at a key G7 workshop on marine litter that took place in Metz, France from 5 to 6 May 2019. The workshop is part of the implementation process of the . It was organised by France who currently holds the G7 presidency, together with the (UNEP/MAP –  Barcelona Convention) and with support of Italy.”Workshops like the one in Metz give us a good opportunity to articulate regional actions on marine litter and to identify the next common implementation priorities,” said Monika Stankiewicz, the HELCOM Executive Secretary. “There are clear synergies between the various frameworks – national, G7, EU, HELCOM and other regional sea conventions, and the UN. By joining forces, we can efficiently deal with the global and cross-sectoral issue of marine litter.”The ‘G7 Action Plan to Combat Marine Litter in Synergy with the Regional Seas Conventions Workshop’, the full name of the event, resulted in a list of issues that was commonly seen as needed to accelerate the implementation of the plan at national and regional levels. The outcome of the workshop was presented by the Coordinator of UN Environment/Mediterranean Action Plan, Mr Gaetano Leone, to the meeting of the G7 Ministers of the Environment on 6 May 2019.At the workshop, increased cooperation with regional fisheries organisations to address marine litter was also considered as essential. “We need to cooperate more with fisheries organisations, especially on the issue of ghost fishing gear,” said Marta Ruiz, the HELCOM expert on marine litter. Ghost fishing gear, or so-called “abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear” (ALDFG), still is a major source of marine pollution and poses a direct threat to marine life. Knowledge sharing and outreach campaigns on marine litter also came into the focus of the workshop, seeking to share best practices and improving stakeholder involvement from both civil society and economic sector. In Metz, the rising number of global awareness campaigns since the inception of the Action Plan was particularly lauded.In 2015, the G7 signed the Action Plan to Combat Marine Litter in Schloss Elmau, Germany. Since then, the Action Plan has been constantly reviewed in subsequent G7 meetings. The first Workshop on Marine Litter – that focused on the implementation of the Action Plan – was held in Rome, Italy in 2017. The workshop was attended by four G7 countries, the EU, the four European regional seas organisations – HELCOM, OSPAR, UNEP/MAP (Barcelona Convention), and the Black Sea Commission. Others were the Nairobi Convention and the Caribbean Environment Programme of the Cartagena Convention. All these regional seas organisations include at least one G7 member if not more. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), GESAMP (Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environment Protection of the United Nations) as well as a number of NGOs and associations from the private sector also participated. For its part, to address marine litter in the Baltic Sea, HELCOM has adopted its own in 2015. Comprised of a recommendation and a set of regional and national actions, the HELCOM plan seeks to prevent and reduce marine litter already at its main sources, before it enters the sea. The plan also pushes for the development of common indicators and associated targets related to quantities, composition, sources and pathways of marine litter. The main focus areas of the plan are waste prevention and management, plastic litter, micro particles including microplastics, sewage related litter such as sanitary waste and lost fishing gear. ​

The central role of Regional Seas Conventions such as HELCOM in the fight against the global pressure of marine litter was underscored at a key G7 workshop on marine litter that took place in Metz, France from 5 to 6 May 2019.

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.

FanpLESStic-sea: New research project focuses on reducing microplastics in the Baltic Sea

(FanpLESStic press release)A new research project will focus on decreasing and removing microplastics in the Baltic Sea. The project will increase knowledge and understanding about dispersal pathways and sources through measurements in different flows in society, as well as cost-effective methods to reduce microplastics.  Marine littering is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time and plastic is one of the most common types of garbage in the sea. FanpLESStic is a new research project, working with preventing and decreasing the pollution of microplastics in water and the Baltic Sea. Microplastics are plastic particles that are smaller than 5 mm in size. “This is an exciting project ranging from knowledge to technology and decision making. We hope that it will give concrete benefit to an extremely important marine environment: the Baltic Sea. The water has no boarders and it is therefore important that we do this together with our colleagues in the Baltic countries” says Marinette Hagman, Research Manager at Sweden Water Research. The project has three key targets: increased knowledge of where microplastics come from and their transport pathways Evaluation of technology that can reduce microplastic or reduce microplastic leakage before reaching watercourses,increased knowledge and commitment of decision makers through suggestions on how to implement cost-effective methods to reduce microplastics.”We do not know much about microplastics today. In order to make reliable analyzes of the amount of microplastics in the water, we need to standardize our measurement methods. Without that, it is difficult to determine how much plastics there is in the environment, where it comes from and how we can work to reduce it” says Marinette Hagman.About the projectFanpLESStic project is including partner organizations in eight countries with coast to the Baltic sea (Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia).The total budget of the project is 2 968 068,80 euro with financial support by the EU Interreg program.Project period is from January 1st 2019 to June 30th 2021. Project coordinator is Sweden Water Research and responsible project manager is Carina Svensson, with solid experience of international projects.  FanpLESStic-sea seeks to reduce microplastic leakage, by following main outputs ***Facts about microplastics in marine environmentsMarine littering is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time and plastic is one of the most common types of garbage in the sea. Microplastics are plastic particles that are smaller than 5 mm in size. One problem with our knowledge about microplastics is that today there is no standard for measuring, sampling and analyzing microplastics in different forms, which makes it difficult to compare results. Without reliable analytical methods, the amount of plastic in the environment can not be determined, which means that it is not possible to determine which source is most important and what impact they have.***Partners in FanpLESSticDenmark: Aalborg University, Finland: Natural Resources Institute Finland and Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission – Helsinki Commission, Latvia: Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology, Lithuania: Siauliai Chamber of Commerce, Industry and CraftsNorway: Salt Lofoten AS Poland: Gdanks Water Utilities Ltd. and Gdansk Water Ltd., Russia: State Autonomous Institution of the Kaliningrad region “Environmental Center “ECAT-Kaliningrad”, Sweden: Sweden Water Research and Luleå University of Technology***ContactMarinette Hagman, Research Manager, Sweden Water Research: phone +46-(0)10-490 98 17,  marinette.hagman@nsva.seCarina Svensson, Project Manager, Sweden Water Research: +46-(0)72-226 95 94,

A new research project will focus on decreasing and removing microplastics in the Baltic Sea. The project will increase knowledge and understanding about dispersal pathways and sources through measurements in different flows in society.

Nature conservation and monitoring of the Baltic Sea’s ecosystem take centre stage in Copenhagen during STATE & CONSERVATION 9-2018

​Nature conservation and monitoring of the Baltic Sea’s ecosystem were the focus of attention during the  (STATE & CONSERVATION 9-2018). The meeting was held in Copenhagen from 22 to 26 October 2018.During the event, it was agreed to broaden the workplan for the , notably on the follow-up of  (BSAP) measures, red-listed species and their link to specific habitat features, and non-indigenous species, among others.In regards to  (MPAs), the participants endorsed the establishment of a regional MPA management network under the auspice of HELCOM. The management network is intended to function as a platform for managers across the region, to share experiences and best practices.In Copenhagen, Denmark, Estonia, Finland and Sweden furthermore presented their plans for designating new MPAs. HELCOM was the first regional seas convention in the world to reach the target of 10% of its total marine area to be covered by MPAs in 2010. Increasing the ambition level, where scientifically justifiable, HELCOM seeks to achieve 10 percent MPA coverage for every Baltic Sea sub-basin by 2020.  Baltic sea species were also addressed at STATE & CONSERVATION 9-2018, notably the , a cousin of the dolphin. Measures to minimize bycatch, one of the biggest threats to harbour porpoises, were discussed. Currently, only about 500 of these marine mammals are left in the Baltic Proper, a sub-basin of the Baltic Sea where they used to occur in large numbers.On Baltic sturgeon – one of the regionally extinct species on the  – an action plan for its reintroduction, recovery and protection was endorsed by STATE & CONSERVATION 9-2018, a first step for its final adoption by the HELCOM countries in 2019.The meeting participants also expressed their concern about the low numbers of ringed seal in the Gulf of Finland and called for increased efforts to conserve the species. At STATE & CONSERVATION 9-2018, several guidelines on monitoring the state of the Baltic Sea were also in principle endorsed, notably on dissolved oxygen in seawater and determining heavy metals in sediments. Monitoring the state of the Baltic Sea is key to understanding how the ecosystem reacts to the current measures for a healthy sea.Pressures on the Baltic Sea were also discussed, notably marine litter and underwater noise. On the latter, it was highlighted that more efforts are needed, specifically on determining threshold values. Underwater noise is one of the emerging pressures on the Baltic Sea environment.Norbert Häubner and Marie-Louise Krawack were elected as co-Chairs of the  for the next term until 2020, respectively chairing the monitoring & assessment, and biodiversity & nature conservation components of the group. They replace the previous co-Chairs Penina Blankett and Urmas Lips.

​Nature conservation and monitoring of the Baltic Sea’s ecosystem were the focus of attention during the Ninth Meeting of the HELCOM Working Group on the State of the Environment and Nature Conservation (STATE & CONSERVATION 9-2018).

HELCOM group meets in Riga to address land-based pollution and pressures on the Baltic Sea

The  met in Riga, Latvia from 10 to 12 October 2018 to tackle matters related to land-based pollution of the Baltic Sea, during the Ninth Meeting of the Working Group on Reduction of Pressures from the Baltic Sea Catchment Area ().The  (BSAP), HELCOM’s strategic tool for a healthy Baltic Sea, was a major item on the agenda, with the group discussing a work plan for an update beyond its current end in 2021. As part of the BSAP update process, PRESSURE 9-2018 consented to review over a hundred HELCOM agreements and recommendations related to land-based pollution and nutrient inputs, in order to assess the status of their implementation by the .”This review, together with evaluating emerging environmental challenges, is important for the BSAP update. The results will allow for the formulation of new recommendations, and help us understand what actions work and what don’t,” said Monika Stankiewicz, HELCOM’s Executive Secretary, adding that a better comprehension of how the ecosystem responds to the current measures, and within which timeframes, would be the next step  for devising pertinent improvements.In Riga, the HELCOM group also agreed to on the first practical steps to elaborate the regional principles and risk assessment framework for the management of internal nutrient reserves through sea-based measures. Nutrients have accumulated in the Baltic Sea over time and are aggravating .In addition, progress of implementation of the  was also discussed. It was further agreed on the need for more efforts, especially on waste management to prevent litter and microliter from entering the sea. Storm water management, eco-design to reduce over-packaging, and discarded or lost fishing gear were also addressed. The importance of environmental education and public outreach in addressing the litter issue was particularly highlighted, welcoming international public campaigns such as the . Specific attention was also placed on hazardous substances. A suggestion for HELCOM indicators on hazardous substances to integrate information on both loads and their sources, was strongly welcomed by the participants, allowing for a more timely and precise response to emerging pollution threats. The PRESSURE 9-2018 Meeting attracted over 40 representatives from all contracting parties to the Helsinki Convention and observers from regional NGOs and professional associations with stakes in the Baltic Sea. For more information, read the .

The HELCOM Pressure group met in Riga, Latvia from 10 to 12 October 2018 to tackle matters related to land-based pollution of the Baltic Sea, during the Ninth Meeting of the Working Group on Reduction of Pressures from the Baltic Sea Catchment Area (PRESS

Maritime activities in the Baltic Sea assessed in new report

PRESS RELEASE 9 MARCH 2018 – After two years of work, HELCOM today releases a comprehensive assessment of maritime activities in the Baltic Sea. The report covers a wide range human activities at sea, from commercial maritime traffic to leisure boating and from fisheries to hazardous submerged objects.HELCOM releases today the most comprehensive assessment of maritime activities in the Baltic Sea region currently available – covering distribution of activities at sea, developments over time, related environmental issues as well as future perspectives and scenarios. The vast number of activities addressed include operational and accidental pollution from maritime traffic, fisheries, aquaculture, offshore energy production, cables and pipelines, submerged hazardous objects, and leisure boating. Visual contents of the HELCOM Maritime Assessment 2018.Shipping and pollution A large part of the report is dedicated to maritime traffic – still the most common maritime activity in the Baltic Sea – and to mapping it on a regional scale. In terms of environmental effects, the report highlights that some types of ship-based pollution have already been effectively dealt with in the Baltic Sea over the last decades, including 90% reductions in both operational oil spills and sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions from ships exhaust gases.For other types of ship-based pollution, recent decisions will result in more reductions in the near future. Those decisions include banning of untreated sewage discharges by 2021 and a requirement of 80% reduction of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions for new ships built 2021 or later. However, some types of ship-based pollution remain unquantified, including litter, chemical residuals, and anti-fouling paints, and others, such as underwater sound, are yet to be addressed. The concluding chapter of the report explores future scenarios of maritime traffic and related environmental regulations.Stable accident numbers, increase in aquaculture and energy productionShip accidents in the Baltic Sea occurred at a fairly stable level of 300 accidents per year during the period 2011–2015, 4 % of which led to loss of life, serious injuries, or environmental damages. The coastal countries have relatively well-developed systems in place to prevent accidents by increasing safety of navigation. As an example, nearly 200 000 km2 of seabed, more than the combined surface area of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have been resurveyed between 2001 and 2016 by national hydrographic agencies in the Baltic Sea, bringing the accuracy of nautical charts to a new level. The coastal countries also have response resources in place. However, new developments, such as carriage of modern low-sulphur fuels, require updates and new solutions for response procedures.In other chapters, the assessment informs on developments such as the recent and upcoming increases in sea based aquaculture, wind power, and offshore oil and gas production. The chapter on hazardous submerged objects draws attention to the environmental hazards in the legacy of dumped and lost military material, wrecks, and industrial waste.Groundbreaking data useThe report makes unprecedented use of the regional HELCOM Automatic Identification System (AIS) data, including high-resolution information on vessel movements in the entire sea basin since 2005. The extensive data is especially visible in the chapters related to maritime traffic and fisheries. Besides presenting a large number of maps and illustrations, the report includes a detailed description of the methodology used to extract and create the presented information from raw AIS data.The assessment also synthesises a number of other regional datasets on maritime activities in the Baltic Sea area stemming from regular national reporting to HELCOM. These cover issues such as spills observed via aerial surveillance, maritime accidents, response operations, port reception facilities, progress in hydrographic re-surveys, and aquaculture activities.An example of HELCOM collaborationThe 250-page report is the result of a two-year collaborative effort between the editorial team in the HELCOM Secretariat as well as national experts, providing review and additional material, and regional projects.The report is intended to support the update of the “” as well as to benefit the work of the relevant HELCOM Working Groups. It also enables the HELCOM Contracting Parties (Denmark, Estonia, European Union, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russian Federation and Sweden) to demonstrate achievements, and plan future regional work, on the regional objective “Environmentally friendly maritime activities”, agreed as part of the in 2007. In addition to this traditional publication, a large number of GIS datasets generated in the process, particularly AIS based maps on maritime activities, are released simultaneously for the general public via the (MADS). These maps are anticipated to be interesting and useful for various purposes beyond HELCOM cooperation, including national maritime spatial planning and research. The code used in producing these datasets is also made available for the same purpose via the GitHub platform, to help similar initiatives within and beyond the region.The HELCOM Maritime Assessment 2018 can be accessed at:

(12 MB) The GIS materials and code underlying the assessment can be accessed at:AIS Explorer: HELCOM Map and Data service, e.g. and GitHub:
 * * *Note for editors

is an intergovernmental organization
made up of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union.
Originally established in 1974, its primary aims as a governing body of the
Helsinki Convention (1974/1992) 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.HELCOM
works to address environmental effects of human activities on land and at sea.
Its working groups consist of national delegates and observers (industry and
civil society representatives). Groups dealing with measures to address
activities at sea include the HELCOM Maritime, Response, Fish and Pressure
Working Groups.The
drafting of an assessment of maritime activities in the Baltic Sea was agreed
by the coastal countries and EU during the 2013 . For more information, please contact:Hermanni Backer Professional Secretary for Maritime, Response and Fish groups HELCOM Tel:  +358 46 8509199 E-mail: hermanni.backer(at)

HELCOM today releases a comprehensive assessment of maritime activities in the Baltic Sea. The report covers a wide range human activities at sea, from commercial maritime traffic to leisure boating and from fisheries to hazardous submerged objects.