Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

 

Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

HELCOM publishes maps on fish habitats

HELCOM just published several maps on essential fish habitats, publicly available online on HELCOM’s Map and Data service. The maps were produced under the recently concluded Pan Baltic Scope project on maritime spatial planning (MSP) in the Baltic Sea region and to which HELCOM was a partner.

The maps show potential spawning areas of cod, sprat and herring, which are the commercially most important fish species in the Baltic Sea region, as well as key areas for European and Baltic flounder, perch and pikeperch. 

“With the maps on essential fish habitats, we now have another tool at our disposal to identify and evaluate marine areas of greater ecological importance,” said SLU Aqua’s Lena Bergström who was responsible for this component within the Pan Baltic Scope project. 

Combined with corresponding data for other ecosystem components, the maps on essential fish habitats can be used to identify regions of high ecological value and areas which have the potential to deliver various essential ecosystem services.

The maps can be found under Biodiversity section of the HELCOM Map and Data service: 

The maps can also be downloaded as raster files from the HELCOM Metadata catalogue.

The Pan Baltic Scope project was co-founded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund of the European Union. In the project, HELCOM notably collaborated on a data sharing activity to support regional cooperation and transboundary coherence in MSP which lead to the development of BASEMAPS, a web-based tool showing decentralized MSP data through open standard services.

The ecosystem approach conquers global maritime spatial planning event in Riga

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Panel discussion at the MSP Forum 2019 in Riga. © HELCOM

Not just one or two but three events on maritime spatial planning (MSP) were combined in the “Global meets regional” Maritime Spatial Planning Forum in Riga between 19 and 21 November, showing the importance that MSP is gaining in the Baltic Sea region.

The event that attracted 300 participants from over 40 countries was a grouping of the 4th International MSP Forum, the 3rd Baltic MSP Forum, and the final conference of the Pan Baltic Scope project. It focussed heavily on the ecosystem approach as well as transboundary planning between countries and frameworks.

“For HELCOM, maritime spatial planning is one of the tools at our disposal for achieving good environmental status of the Baltic Sea,” noted Rüdiger Strempel, the Executive Secretary of HELCOM, in his recap remarks.

“By promoting the ecosystem approach, [we] add the human dimension to the ecosystem, both in terms of the benefits we derive from the sea, and regarding the pressures our activities exert on the marine environment,” he said.

According to Strempel, the forum also impressively demonstrated “the broad range of disciplines and topics of relevance to and affected by MSP.” Indeed, legal issues, environmental impacts, economic and social dimensions, green infrastructure, and ecosystem services all prominently featured on the forum’s agenda, confirming the complexities and the multidisciplinary nature of MSP.

The forum furthermore served as the final conference of the EU-funded Pan Baltic Scope project on advancing MSP in the Baltic Sea region and where HELCOM led the work on economic and social analyses, and cumulative impacts.

In the project, HELCOM also collaborated on a data sharing activity to support regional cooperation and transboundary coherence in MSP. At the forum, HELCOM presented BASEMAPS, a web-based tool showing decentralized MSP data through open standard services.

“With BASEMAPS, planners can finally access a catalogue of transnational MSP data published by official data providers,” said Joni Kaitaranta, HELCOM’s data manager. The tool seeks to facilitate the development of coherent plans across the Baltic Sea region.

BASEMAPS is the result of both the Baltic LINes and Pan Baltic Scope projects, with the first focussing on input data – the data needed to produce the plans –, and the second on output data, showing national MSP plans in a harmonized way following HELCOM-VASAB guidelines on transboundary MSP output data structure in the Baltic Sea to support cross-border coherence of plans.

The forum was organized in conjunction with UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC UNESCO), VASAB, Pan Baltic Scope and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE).

And who said three: in a MSP-dominated week, the forum took place back to back with an EU MSP expert meeting on Monday, 18 November and the Capacity4MSP project partner meeting on Friday, 22 November – bumping up the count to an actual five MSP events in Riga. 

Watch Rüdiger Strempel’s recap video

Ecosystem-based management and maritime spatial planning are furthered at HELCOM-VASAB meeting in St Petersburg

As maritime spatial planning is sharpening up in Baltic Sea region, planners and policy makers advanced on environmentally-friendly management of human sea-based activities during the last HELCOM-VASAB meeting held in St Petersburg, Russia from 28 to 29 October 2019.

“The HELCOM-VASAB Working Group is a unique platform for developing ecosystem-based management, pooling the efforts of both planners and environmentalists for better maritime spatial planning (MSP) in the Baltic Sea region,” said Dmitry Frank-Kamenetsky who oversees MSP at HELCOM.

In MSP, ecosystem-based management, or the ecosystem approach, aims at linking the conservation of marine resources with an integrated management of different human maritime activities. This approach helps to reduce the cumulative impacts on the environment caused by multiple human activities.

In St Petersburg, ecosystem-based management was a central topic as reflected by the meeting outcome, along the exchange on the state of national maritime spatial plans.

All Baltic Sea countries are currently developing maritime spatial plans or looking into the matter, with the majority already having adopted their plans and some even embarking on their revision.

As laid out in its roadmap for MSP, HELCOM-VASAB promotes the coordination between national MSP efforts to avoid incompatibilities of plans between countries within the Baltic Sea region.

MSP is also expected to feature more prominently in the update of the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP), HELCOM’s strategic programme of actions to reach a good environmental status of the Baltic Sea and that is due to be updated by 2021. When the initial BSAP was adopted in 2007, there weren’t many concrete MSP activities in the region yet. At HELCOM-VASAB, it was therefore agreed that MSP finds its rightful place in the updated BSAP.

“In the Baltic Sea area, most MSP activities came to life because of the commitments made under the BSAP. Now that the region has advanced on MSP, we can see its full potential for helping us to reach our environmental goals for our sea,” said Frank-Kamenetsky.

Presented by Pan Baltic Scope during the meeting, the concept of green infrastructure (GI) showed possible ways on how to integrate MSP in the update of the BSAP. By mapping habitats and biotopes that provide essential ecosystem services, green infrastructure is an attempt to effectively link biodiversity to spatial planning.

Green infrastructure is a network of natural or semi-natural ecosystems that offer valuable services. They provide natural resources – think clean air, water and food –, regulate the environment and climate, as well as add a cultural and social value, for instance through recreational opportunities. 

Further development of the green infrastructure concept was included in the HELCOM-VASAB Work Plan for 2020-2021 to be submitted to the HELCOM countries for final approval.

The 19th meeting of joint HELCOM-VASAB Working Group on Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) took place during the XVIII Annual Strategic Planning Leaders Forum that, every autumn, attracts over 1000 participants from Russia and beyond.

The HELCOM-VASAB Working Group was established in 2010 to ensure cooperation among the Baltic Sea Region countries for coherent regional maritime spatial planning processes in the Baltic Sea.

Read the meeting outcome

Maritime spatial planning in the Baltic Sea region just became easier with the web-based tool BASEMAPS

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Why BASEMAPS?

To make their plans, maritime spatial planning (MSP) practitioners need transboundary data that is up-to-date and reliable. Working with a centralized database is often the only option to get a large amount of harmonized data. However, these centralized databases are not always up-to-date.

In 2012, to address data reliability and accuracy, the BaltSeaPlan project recommended building a tool for decentralized MSP data from the Baltic Sea region, based on marine spatial data infrastructure (MSDI). In 2016, based on this recommendation, the BalticLINes project started the development of such a decentralized but more up-to-date system. The final product, BASEMAPS, was released in 2019.

What is BASEMAPS?

BASEMAPS is a web-based tool to access Baltic MSP decentralized data through open standards services. MSP practitioners can access for the first time a catalogue of transnational MSP data published by official data providers.

BASEMAPS makes use of the open geospatial services standardized by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). These tools are web map services (WMS) to view map images and web feature services (WFS) to deliver data. Likewise, the tool works also with other kind of services such as ArcGIS Rest and Download services.

What can users do with BASEMAPS?

MSP authorities and practitioners can view and download datasets, view their metadata, click on geographical features to get information, and zoom in to get more details of the area. Additionally, data providers can manage their own data in an administration panel. This password-protected panel provides an user-friendly interface for registered users to add, edit and delete data services.

Besides showing data from different national sources, BASEMAPS is being developed further in the Pan Baltic Scope project to view national MSP plans in a harmonized way. This feature will be available in BASEMAPS at the end of 2019. For more information click here.

Who developed BASEMAPS?

BASEMAPS was developed during the Interreg funded project Baltic LINes. This project aimed at propose planning solutions for linear infrastructures (cables), renewable energy and shipping lanes. There were 15 partners led by BSH.

HELCOM led a work package to develop a tool to access decentralized data based on a MSDI that later got the name BASEMAPS. The work was supported by Aalborg University.

Visit BASEMAPS at https://basemaps.helcom.fi/

Ecosystem approach in maritime spatial planning is the central focus at joint HELCOM-VASAB meeting

To boost coherence in maritime spatial planning in the Baltic Sea region, the 18th Meeting of the joint HELCOM-VASAB Maritime Spatial Planning Working Group (HELCOM-VASAB MSP WG 18-2019) was convened in Hamburg, Germany from on 27 to 28 March 2019.The ecosystem approach and cross-border consultations were identified as some of the key elements for improved regional coherence in maritime spatial planning (MSP).In maritime spatial planning (MSP), the ecosystem-based approach assures sustainable use of marine resources through correlating the impact our activities may have on the environment, taking into account the full array of interactions occurring in the marine ecosystem.At the meeting, it was also advised to consider the forthcoming recommendations of the Pan Baltic Scope project that are due by end of 2019. is a two-year EU-funded project on MSP in the Baltic Sea region that seeks to support national MSP processes in advancing the implementation of the ecosystem-based approach at the Baltic Sea regional level.The meeting was hosted by the German Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency in Hamburg, Germany. It was chaired by the Co-Chairs of the Working Group, Ms Katarzyna Krzywda from Poland and Mr Joacim Johannesson from Sweden.

To boost coherence in maritime spatial planning in the Baltic Sea region, the 18th Meeting of the joint HELCOM-VASAB Maritime Spatial Planning Working Group (HELCOM-VASAB MSP WG 18-2019) was convened in Hamburg, Germany from on 27 to 28 March 2019.

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.

RETROUT project for promoting coastal fishing in the Baltic Sea convenes in Stockholm for its yearly partnership meeting

​The RETROUT project team meets in Stockholm for its yearly partnership meeting. © Maria ÅmanFor their yearly partnership meeting, the  project team members met in Stockholm from 1 to 2 October 2018 to report on the current state of the project and devise on future approaches and activities to be included in an updated of the work plan. With a focus on sea trout, the RETROUT project seeks to promote the Baltic Sea region as a major coastal fishing tourism destination. “Fishing tourism in the Baltic sea has a very large potential that is not yet fully realised, for instance due to poor environmental condition of some rivers in the Baltic Sea region,” said Håkan Häggström, the RETROUT Project Lead coordinator from the County Administrative Board of Stockholm. “With RETROUT, we want to tie together river restoration with sustainable economic growth driven by fishing tourism in coastal areas.” The RETROUT project particularly resonates with the  currently promoted by HELCOM, considering the needs and interlinkages of both healthy ecosystems and economic and social development.In Stockholm, HELCOM chaired the separate work group session for the RETROUT work package on ‘Assessment of status and management of sea trout rivers and stocks.’The aim of this  is to assess the status of and pressures on sea trout rivers and stocks, notably caused by recreational fishing. HELCOM also evaluates different river restoration methods and best practices, to provide recommendations on river and stock management. “At this stage of the project, it is now time to move on from plans to action. I see an interesting year ahead, with good progress on sea trout stock and habitat assessments. This is crucial information for successful river restorations,” said Henri Jokinen, the RETROUT Project manager at HELCOM.The HELCOM work is in line with the , and supports the  “Conservation of Baltic Salmon (Salmo salar) and Sea Trout (Salmo trutta) populations by the restoration of their river habitats and management of river fisheries.”The outcomes of the RETROUT project will also feed into the update process of the  (BSAP), HELCOM’s strategic tool for a healthy Baltic Sea and that already calls for plans on river restoration and management of coastal fish species among others. The results will notably facilitate the so-called “analysis of sufficiency of measures”, indicating whether current actions to reach the BSAP objectives are yielding the expected results or not. With 14 partners from Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, and including HELCOM, RETROUT is a three-year project running until September 2020 and promoting the Baltic Sea region as a coastal fishing tourism destination. RETROUT is a flagship project of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region . It is co-financed by the  under the Natural resources priority field.–For more information:Henri JokinenRETROUT Project managerhenri.jokinen@helcom.fi

For their yearly partnership meeting, the RETROUT project team members met in Stockholm from 1 to 2 October 2018 to report on the current state of the project and devise on future approaches and activities to be included in an updated of the work plan. Wi

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 and VASAB validate efforts on maritime spatial planning in the Baltic Sea region, advance new concepts during key meeting in Helsinki

Earlier in May, the joint HELCOM and Maritime Spatial Working Group met in Helsinki at the Ministry of the Environment of Finland to advance the agenda on (MSP) in the Baltic Sea region.The major themes addressed were strengthening the ecosystem-based approach in MSP, evaluating the progress of the regional MSP roadmap by 2020, and coordinating regional policy in MSP in a wider context of maritime policies. Maritime spatial planning (MSP) seeks to optimize the use of the sea, addressing both the ecosystem and maritime activities such as shipping and fishing, and taking into account the needs of all Baltic Sea stakeholders. During the meeting, the group acknowledged that “MSP is a powerful tool assuring sustainable exploitation of marine resources.” It also agreed to contribute to the update of the (BSAP), as stated in the .Participants recognized the significant progress in MSP achieved in the region. All countries signatories to the currently have maritime spatial plans in place, with some already revising their first generation schemes. Unlike terrestrial plans that have been around for quite a while, maritime plans are still a novelty worldwide.In the Baltic Sea region, national maritime spatial plans are elaborated in an open and transparent way. They are subject to regular international consultations based on guidelines developed by HELCOM-VASAB MSP group and the . To strengthen this process even further and assure compatibility of spatial plans at the regional level, the group agreed during the meeting to elaborate guidelines for international consultations on MSP data output.Another key item on the meeting’s agenda was the ecosystem approach in maritime spatial planning, integrating all aspects of the marine ecosystem into MSP. The group is currently advancing the concept of green infrastructure and blue corridors which integrates valuable components of the marine ecosystem into the planning such as fish spawning areas, migration routes, benthic biotopes and coastal zones. The aim is to foster sustainable use of marine resources and to protect the marine ecosystem, as well as to strengthen the connectivity between and coherence of (MPAs). This work will be done in close cooperation with representatives of fisheries and environmental authorities. The cooperation will follow a timetable and work plan to be elaborated by the HELCOM VASAB MSP group, to better coordinate regional activities and to elaborate a regional tool for practical use of the green infrastructure concept in MSP. Furthermore, the group agreed to update the HELCOM recommendation on coastal zones management, in particular to strengthening its linkage with maritime spatial planning.The 16th Meeting of the joint HELCOM-VASAB Maritime Spatial Planning Working Group (HELCOM-VASAB MSP WG 16-2018) was held in Helsinki, Finland, from 8 to 9 May 2018 in the Ministry of the Environment of Finland. The meeting was organized back-to-back with the first international consultations on maritime spatial plans which are being developed in Finland. ​

Earlier in May, the joint HELCOM and VASAB Maritime Spatial Working Group met in Helsinki at the Ministry of the Environment of Finland to advance the agenda on maritime spatial planning (MSP) in the Baltic Sea region.