Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

 

Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Managers of marine protected areas connect in Vaasa for better transboundary collaboration

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Reed aquatic grass in Finland © Pixabay

To improve cooperation and transboundary management between marine protected areas in the Baltic Sea, HELCOM organised its Second Marine Protected Areas Management Workshop in Vaasa, Finland from 9 to 12 September 2019.

“Species do not care about lines on a map,” said Jannica Haldin, the HELCOM Professional Secretary handling biodiversity, adding that marine protected areas (MPAs) are part of larger ecosystems that may include other MPAs, hence the need for a concerted regional approach to their management.

What’s more, there are currently several types of MPAs in the Baltic Sea, such as areas protected under national legislation, the EU’s Natura 2000 areas, and HELCOM MPAs. Overlaps between these areas – and legislations – are often significant.

Despite the fact that the combined area of all MPAs covers large parts of the Baltic, there is still insufficient assessment of how effective their management is. According to the MPA managers themselves, there is a lack of overview on methods, best practices and guidelines best suited for the region.

“In HELCOM, we have seen that MPA managers face identical challenges, no matter what part of the Baltic they are from,” said Haldin. “We therefore wanted to bring them together to share their experiences and find ways to improve cross-border work and to better navigate between the overlapping frameworks they may be working in.”

In placing the main focus on stakeholder interaction in marine conservation, a key topic identified during the first MPA management workshop held in 2018, the Vaasa event provided a platform for the managers to exchange views on common approaches, and to improve transboundary cooperation.

HELCOM already established the region’s first MPA Management Network (EN MPA MANET) earlier this year. One major aim of the network has been to link the different national and regional frameworks and international commitments such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, to ensure that the different obligations are well understood.

The workshop in Vaasa, co-financed by the EU Biogeographical Process and hosted by Parks and Wildlife Finland, was the first official meeting of the EN MPA MANET network and was held in Kvarken, or the Quark – a HELCOM MPA, Natura 2000 site and UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

Currently, 177 sites are listed in the HELCOM MPA database. Since the designation of the first HELCOM MPAs in 1994, there has been a substantial increase in the coverage of MPAs, from 3.9 percent of the Baltic Sea area in 2004 to 13.5 percent today.

Mapping of essential fish habitats gets underway in joint HELCOM-Pan Baltic Scope workshop

Experts in marine biology and maritime spatial planning came together in Riga from 12 to 13 December in a workshop addressing essential fish habitats in the Baltic Sea, with the goal to map the most significant areas.

“We want to see where the important fish habitats are in the Baltic Sea,” said Lena Bergström from HELCOM who co-organized the workshop together with Latvia, adding that the maps will be a useful tool for better informed maritime spatial planning (MSP).

During the workshop, participants validated the proposed essential fish habitats maps, and provided recommendations for their further use in HELCOM. The maps will eventually be made available to maritime spatial planners as well as other users on HELCOM’s website.

Essential fish habitats are – as their name suggests – essential for the healthy development of fish during their entire life cycle, from spawning, nursery and feeding to maturity. These habitats play an important role in the entire food web chain and marine ecosystem.

Since most fish species use different habitat types for different periods of their life cycle, the workshop notably focussed on describing different categories such as spawning areas, nursery areas for larvae and juveniles, adult feeding areas, and migratory corridors.The information presented during the workshop will be further used in the , to develop a concept of for supporting maritime spatial planning in the HELCOM region.

A novelty in MSP, green infrastructure seeks to promote an ecosystem-based approach in maritime spatial plans that also integrates the ecosystem services rendered by the marine environment – the free benefits we humans gain from a sea in a healthy state. The workshop was co-organised by HELCOM and the Pan Baltic Scope project, and hosted by the Latvian Ministry of Environment.

Experts in marine biology and maritime spatial planning came together in Riga from 12 to 13 December in a workshop addressing essential fish habitats in the Baltic Sea, with the goal to map the most significant areas.

UN agrees to nine marine ecologically significant areas in the Baltic Sea

The nine new EBSAs in the Baltic Sea © HELCOMHelsinki, 30 November 2018 – A final step for nine ecologically unique marine areas in the Baltic Sea to be included in a global registry was taken during the held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt from 17 to 29 November 2018.Altogether, the nine so-called  (EBSAs) cover 23 percent of the Baltic Sea waters. Five are transboundary areas, spanning over waters of two or more countries. Describing these EBSAs was a commitment by HELCOM made at the UN Ocean Conference in New York in 2017, a pledge of the Baltic Sea region for advancing the  (SDG 14).The new EBSAs were identified in Helsinki earlier in February 2018 during the  convened by the UN Secretariat of the  (CBD) in collaboration with HELCOM, with financial support from Finland and Sweden.According to the  (CBD, also known as UN Biodiversity) that keeps the , EBSAs are “special areas in the ocean that serve important purposes, in one way or another, to support the healthy functioning of oceans and the many services that it provides.” EBSAs are usually characterized by unique biological features. Knowing the position of these areas will also facilitate maritime spatial planning (MSP), notably in transboundary areas. “Beyond the protection of unique biodiversity, the EBSAs in the Baltic Sea can greatly help to establish maritime spatial plans that are coherent across borders, eventually leading to greater efficiencies for managing our activities at sea and improving the state of the sea,” said Monika Stankiewicz, HELCOM’s Executive Secretary.  In addition to being of value to maritime spatial planning that is based on the , the EBSAs could also contribute to the red-listing of threatened species and biotopes, the evaluation of effectiveness and coherence of marine protected areas (MPAs) networks, and future .The description of the EBSAs was based on , including a large number of biogeographic, biological and physical datasets and analyses available in HELCOM. Since 2011, the CBD Secretariat has convened 13 regional EBSA workshops, assessing more than 74 percent of the world’s total ocean surface. A set of seven criteria is currently being used to describe EBSAs, notably focussing on uniqueness, vulnerability and biological diversity of the marine area.The  is held in in the seaside town of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt from 17 to 23 November 2018, with national governments, regional organizations, and other key stakeholders from around the world engaging in discussions on the  and starting the momentum for a post-2020 global biodiversity framework. ***The nine Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) in the Baltic Sea:Northern Bothnian Bay Kvarken Archipelago Åland Sea, Åland Islands and the Archipelago Sea of Finland Eastern Gulf of FinlandInner Sea of West Estonian Archipelago South-eastern Baltic Sea Shallows Southern Gotland Harbour Porpoise Area Fehmarn Belt Fladen, Stora and Lilla Middelgrund *** CBD criteria for describing EBSAsUniqueness or RaritySpecial importance for life history stages of speciesImportance for threatened, endangered or declining species and/or habitatsVulnerability, Fragility, Sensitivity, or Slow recoveryBiological ProductivityBiological DiversityNaturalness ***Note for editors For immediate release About HELCOMHELCOM is an intergovernmental organization working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea, with its members – so-called Contracting Parties – being Denmark, Estonia, the European Union, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden. HELCOM (short for the Helsinki Commission, and its official name, the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission) is the governing body of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area, also known as the Helsinki Convention. The Helsinki Convention was established in 1974 to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution. HELCOM’s vision for the future is a healthy Baltic Sea environment with diverse biological components functioning in balance, resulting in a good ecological status and supporting a wide range of sustainable economic and social activities. ***For more information, please contact:Dominik LittfassCommunication Secretary+358 40 647 3996 

A final step for nine ecologically unique marine areas in the Baltic Sea to be included in a global registry was taken during the UN Biodiversity Conference held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt from 17 to 29 November 2018.

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).

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

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

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

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.

Uniqueness of Baltic Sea biodiversity highlighted in regional EBSA workshop

Nine areas in the Baltic Sea described as Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) according to the criteria of the Convention on Biological DiversityBaltic Sea joins 13 other marine areas in the world where regional EBSAs workshops have been held The Regional Workshop to Facilitate the Description of Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) in the Baltic Sea was held on 20–24 February 2018, in Helsinki, Finland, hosted by the Government of Finland and with financial support by Finland and Sweden. The workshop was convened by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in collaboration with HELCOM.  Group picture from the opening of the workshop. Front middle row, from left: Ms. Hannele Pokka, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of the Environment of Finland; Ms. Penina Blankett, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of the Environment of Finland; Ms. Monika Stankiewicz, HELCOM Executive Secretary; and Ms. Jihyun Lee, Environmental Affairs Officer, CBD Secretariat, together with the participants of the Baltic EBSA workshop. Photo: Florent Nicolas/HELCOMNine Baltic marine areas were described by the workshop participants as ecologically or biologically significant, including five transboundary areas covering waters of two or more countries. The described EBSAs extend into 14 of the 17 Baltic Sea sub-basins. Altogether, they cover 23% of the Baltic Sea, slightly higher than the 19% the average in other areas of the world.The described EBSAs are: Northern Bothnian BayKvarken ArchipelagoÅland Sea, Åland Islands and the Archipelago Sea of FinlandEastern Gulf of FinlandInner Sea of West Estonian ArchipelagoSoutheastern Baltic Sea ShallowsSouthern Gotland Harbour Porpoise AreaFehmarn BeltFladen and Stora and Lilla Middelgrund.The experts at the workshop had at their disposal a great variety of information, ranging from the latest scientific data on biological, physical, oceanographic, and environmental features to indigenous and local knowledge of the HELCOM area. The Baltic Sea region’s remarkably broad and varied data coverage, much of which is available as regionally harmonized data layers on the , was an asset for the experts. “The workshop outcome is an opportunity to highlight the fact that despite the known marine environmental problems, the unique semi-enclosed Baltic Sea does have a great ecological or biological significance” says Monika Stankiewicz, HELCOM Executive Secretary.The application of the EBSA criteria is a scientific and technical exercise, carried out through a series of regional workshops. The area can be described as EBSA if it meets one or more CBD scientific criteria such uniqueness or rarity, special importance for life history stages of species, importance for threatened, endangered or declining species and/or habitats, and biological productivity and diversity. Management issues, including threats to the areas and needs for protection, are not considered in the process. Since 2011, the CBD Secretariat has convened 13 regional EBSA workshops, covering more than 74 per cent of the world’s oceansThe Baltic EBSA workshop was registered by HELCOM as a voluntary commitment at the UN Ocean Conference for implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, on 5-9 June 2017, New York, (). The decision to organize the workshop was made bearing in mind especially the possibilities the EBSA concept offers for Maritime Spatial Planning.Over 30 experts from the HELCOM countries and from organizations in the region, including representatives of local indigenous peoples, took part in the workshop. The Duke University Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab, with support from the Finnish Environment Institute, acted as the technical support team of the workshop.The workshop report will be submitted for consideration to the 22nd meeting of the CBD Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), scheduled for 2–7 July 2018, Montreal, Canada, and subsequently to the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention (COP), scheduled for 10–22 November 2018, in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. The workshop was co-chaired by Ms. Penina Blankett, Finland, and Mr. Dieter Boedeker, Germany. Note for editorsThe 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 working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. Since 1974, HELCOM has been the governing body of the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’, more commonly known as the Helsinki Convention.Signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the is dedicated to promoting sustainable development. Conceived as a practical tool for translating the principles of the United Nations agenda for sustainable development into reality, the Convention recognizes that biological diversity is about more than plants, animals and micro-organisms and their ecosystems – it is about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live. The scientific criteria for describing were adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the CBD in 2008. ContactsMr. Ville Karvinen Project Coordinator ville.karvinen(at)helcom.fi +358 40 161 6513Ms. Jannica Haldin Professional Secretary jannica.haldin(at)helcom.fi +358 40 485 5905

Nine areas in the Baltic Sea described as Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) according to the criteria of the Convention on Biological Diversity – Baltic Sea 14th marine area to hold regional EBSAs workshop

Preparing to describe the Baltic Sea’s significant marine areas

​​​​Baltic Sea community follows up on commitment to describe Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) International EBSA workshop and training session to be held 19–24 February in Helsinki, FinlandGroup picture from the opening of the workshop. Front row: Ms. Hannele Pokka, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of
the Environment of Finland, Ms.
Penina Blanket, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of
the Environment of Finland,  Ms. Monika Stankiewicz, HELCOM Executive Secretary and Ms. Jihyun Lee, Environmental Affairs Officer, CBD
Secretariat. ​Photo: Florent Nicolas/HELCOM​At the United Nations Ocean Conference in June 2017, HELCOM members registered a to describe Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSA) in the Baltic Sea. The EBSA process will take a significant step further at a workshop in Helsinki next week. The workshop is being convened by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, with financial support from the Governments of Finland and Sweden, and in collaboration with HELCOM. HELCOM’s contribution is supported by the HASPS 2 project, which aims to further objectives of the Horizontal Action “Spatial Planning” of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.EBSAs are special areas in world’s oceans that serve important purposes, in one way or another, to support the healthy functioning of oceans and the many services that they provide. The purpose of the EBSA process is to globally describe these important marine areas using the established scientific criteria adopted by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in all the world’s oceans:Uniqueness or RaritySpecial importance for life history stages of speciesImportance for threatened, endangered or declining species and/or habitatsVulnerability, Fragility, Sensitivity, or Slow recoveryBiological ProductivityBiological DiversityNaturalnessIn the Baltic Sea Region, the EBSA process is expected to provide further useful information of relevance to national and transboundary in the Baltic Sea. Other HELCOM processes such as the Red List, evaluation of effectiveness and coherence of networks, and future HELCOM environmental assessments may also be able to benefit from EBSAs.The workshop is of a scientific and technical nature. The description of EBSAs will draw on specific scientific criteria for describing important marine areas. Countries in the region, relevant organizations and indigenous peoples and local communities have been invited to provide relevant information, including scientific data and traditional knowledge on marine ecosystems, habitats and species, as well as physical, oceanographic, and geological characteristics. The Duke University Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab act as the technical team of the workshop, identifying and mapping datasets and analyses for consideration by the workshop. In addition to national datasets, the Baltic Sea countries have agreed to make relevant HELCOM datasets available to the workshop. ​ Mr. Patrick N. Halpin from the Technical Support Team instructing the workshop experts. ​Photo: Florent Nicolas/HELCOM​​​Thirteen regional EBSA workshops have been arranged worldwide to date. Countries in the region in question, as well as relevant global and regional organizations/initiatives, are invited to nominate experts for the workshop. The nominated experts then go through a selection process under CBD to ensure scientific and technical expertise, knowledge on EBSAs, and gender balance in the workshop. The workshop will produce a regional workshop report on areas meeting EBSA criteria, for consideration by the CBD’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice.* * *Note for editorsThe 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 working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. Since 1974, HELCOM has been the governing body of the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’, more commonly known as the Helsinki Convention. * * *ContactsMr. Ville Karvinen Project Coordinator ville.karvinen(at)helcom.fi +358 40 161 6513Ms. Jannica Haldin Professional Secretary jannica.haldin(at)helcom.fi +358 40 485 5905

Baltic Sea community follows up on commitment to identify Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) – International EBSA workshop and training session to be held 19–24 February in Helsinki, Finland

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