Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

 

Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

More transparency and political leadership called for in HELCOM seminar

​​​​​Major sectors in the Baltic Sea spoke out about HELCOM pollution reduction targetsMarine environment protection was high in the agenda of the EUSBSR Strategy Forum in Stockholm this week

Major sectors in the Baltic Sea spoke out about HELCOM pollution reduction targets in this week’s seminar in the EUSBSR Strategy Forum in Stockholm.

Countries advance State of the Baltic Sea report

​​​The second HELCOM holistic assessment – State of the Baltic Sea – will be the common basis for governments for further measures to protect the seaKey components of the State report are the focal topics for a HELCOM meeting this weekA new HELCOM Recommendation on biotopes, habitats and biotope complexes and HELCOM monitoring guidelines are among other topics of the 5-day meeting in Tallinn, EstoniaAs a part of the sizeable endeavour by HELCOM to assess the environmental status of the entire Baltic Sea by 2017, many necessary building blocks are discussed by the HELCOM State and Conservation Working Group this week. The convenes in Tallinn, Estonia for advancing the next HELCOM holistic – State of the Baltic Sea – , finalizing the Recommendation on biotopes, habitats and biotope complexes, and reviewing and upgrading HELCOM monitoring guidelines, among others. Integration tools bring together the many parameters to provide sensible and reliable assessments of the state of the Baltic Sea marine environment. Photo: Metsähallitus NHS/Essi Keskinen​ Integration tools for biodiversity and hazardous substances have been developed intensively by HELCOM this year. The 2017 ‘State of the Baltic Sea’ builds on a vast amount of HELCOM quality assured data and indicator results. Tools, designed to address specific environmental issues, are needed to bring together the many parameters to provide sensible and reliable assessments of the state of the Baltic Sea marine environment. The tools integrate the results of indicators such as on distribution of marine mammals, abundance of birds, size of zooplankton, and quality of benthic organisms, to arrive at the status of biodiversity. The meeting this week will work on the final form of these tools.  For hazardous substances, the concentration of dioxins, PCBs and other contaminants and their effects are considered. The HELCOM approach to assess the pressures and impacts on the marine environment – the Baltic Sea Impact Index – has also been upgraded this year with new data and special attention given to the spatial extent of impacts.  A key issue for the meeting is to agree on a set of HELCOM core and the associated definition of Good Environmental Status. During 2016, countries leading the indicator development and expert groups have worked towards making the core indicators operational.  In addition, a draft new HELCOM Recommendation on biotopes, habitats and biotope complexes will be elaborated at the meeting, with the view to have it ready for approval by the main HELCOM delegates in December 2016.  Coordinated monitoring guidelines, a prerequisite for making coherent and comparable regional assessments, continues to be scrutinized by the Working Group and fully reviewed and revised HELCOM monitoring guidelines are anticipated to be ready by mid-2017. The Fifth of the Working Group on the State of the Environment and Nature Conservation, (STATE & CONSERVATION 5-2016) will be convened on 7-11 November 2016 in Tallinn, Estonia. The meeting is chaired by the co-Chairs of the group, Ms Penina Blankett, Finland, and Mr. Urmas Lips, Estonia. All documents will be public after the meeting.  * * * Note for editors is an intergovernmental organization made up of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union. Founded in 1974, its primary aims as a governing body 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; it is the governing body of the Helsinki Convention. HELCOM State & Conservation covers monitoring and assessment functions as well as nature conservation and biodiversity protection at HELCOM. It works across the monitoring-indicators-assessment chain to develop HELCOM thematic assessment tools and conducts the coherent holistic assessment of the ecosystem’s health. The next State of the Baltic Sea assessment – or HOLAS II – will give a comprehensive overview of the ecosystem health of the Baltic Sea. The first results are scheduled for release in mid-2017 and finalized by mid-2018. The update on the overall state of the entire Baltic Sea is worked on by the (2014–18), which develops common concepts and methods for the status assessment based on core indicators; creates and tests the tools for aggregated results and, finally, performs assessments at a regional scale. The development of the assessment methods is supported by other projects such as and BalticBOOST.  is an EU co-financed project coordinated by HELCOM. The main objective of the project is to improve regional coherence in the implementation of marine strategies through improved data flow, assessments, and knowledge base for development of measures. The project (2015–16) will develop assessment tools and set up data arrangements to support indicator-based assessments of the state of and pressures on the Baltic Sea.   * * * For more information, please contact:Ulla Li ZweifelProfessional SecretaryHELCOMTel. +358 46 850 9198Skype: helcom64E-mail: ullali.zweifel(at)helcom.fi Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi​​​​

The second HELCOM holistic assessment – State of the Baltic Sea – will be the common basis for governments for further measures to protect the sea.

Healthy Baltic Sea and sustainable growth discussed by the Ministers

​​HELCOM high level session spoke strongly for cross-sectoral and integrated approach in maritime policies High level participants from the Baltic Sea countries and EU, including the European Commissioner Karmenu Vella and Minister of Agriculture and the Environment of Finland Kimmo Tiilikainen, debated yesterday in a HELCOM session in Turku Finland, about how to protect the marine environment while enabling sustainable use and blue economy. ​ HELCOM Executive Secretary Monika Stankiewicz, European Commissioner Karmenu Vella and Minister of Agriculture and the Environment of Finland Kimmo Tiilikainen​.It was pointed out that the economic activities from our seas and oceans that respect environmental boundaries – blue growth – is a great opportunity. The economy depends on healthy seas and there is vast untapped potential for sustainable growth at sea. Protecting our seas and oceans can only be effective if it is seen as a common task within sectorial policies. Moreover, evaluating and demonstrating economic benefits derived from a healthy Baltic Sea is a key factor for ensuring environmental sustainability in economic growth. There is a role to play for RSCs such as HELCOM in reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals adopted last fall also by all the Baltic coastal states. The participants brought up many examples from marine sectors such as marine litter, shipping, fisheries and maritime spatial planning, among others, where successful national practices have taken place – and also where regional governance, and integrated policies, should be of particular concern.                                                                                           “Working with HELCOM brings all Baltic countries and the EU together in their efforts to protect the marine environment in the Baltic Sea and to ensure that it provides a sustainable future for marine life and people who earn their living from it,” said Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner of Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. “HELCOM is a great example of effective regional ocean governance and during our forthcoming Chairmanship we intend to make it even stronger.  During our HELCOM presidency over the next two years we will focus on three main priorities: improving our response to the challenges the Baltic Sea faces; managing its resources sustainably; and promoting knowledge and innovation.” Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister of Agriculture and the Environment of Finland said that only if all countries bordering the sea continue to work actively, engage private actors and companies likewise – and find clever and effective ways to take the action that is needed – will the Baltic Sea become and remain clean and healthy. A lot has already been achieved but there is still a great challenge ahead of us – which can also be seen as an opportunity. The Minister also reminded that the high-level HELCOM session of today facilitates the preparations and way forward to the next HELCOM Ministerial Meeting scheduled for 2018.  The HELCOM Ministerial Session, hosted by the Finnish Environment Minister, was open for public and attracted a large audience. The event was arranged simultaneously with the 2016 European Maritime Day. The video recording of the event will be made available through the event web page by the end of May.​Session participants:Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, European Commission Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister of the Environment of Finland Harry Liiv, HELCOM Chair, Ministry of the Environment of EstoniaJan Olsson, Environment Ambassador, Ministry of the Environment and Energy/Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden Heike Imhoff, EU Water Director at the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear SafetySilver Vahtra, Head of Delegation for HELCOM, Ministry for the Environment of EstoniaJoanna Kopczyńska, Head of Delegation for HELCOM, Ministry of the Environment of Poland * * * Note for editorsThe Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as , 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.  * * * For more information, please contact:Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70​E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi

High level participants spoke strongly for cross-sectoral and integrated approach in maritime policies in HELCOM Ministerial Session.

Nutrient recycling, sewage sludge under HELCOM spotlight this week

​​​​​​​Recycling nutrients from sewage sludge, the Krasny Bor hazardous waste landfill and HELCOM nutrient reduction have been key topics for HELCOM members gathering this week at the Pressure Group’s meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden. The meeting marks an important step in the ongoing HELCOM process of nutrient reduction in the Baltic Sea, with assessment methodologies, data collection procedures and planned products on the agenda.HELCOM Pressure group has its main focus on nutrient and hazardous substance inputs from land. Photo: Metsähallitus NHS/Lari Järvinen.Also receiving attention at the Pressure Group’s meeting is the draft HELCOM Recommendation on sewage . The upcoming Recommendation will offer ways to more efficiently recycle nutrients contained by sewage sludge, in particular phosphorus, and utilize its energetic potential while minimizing negative impacts on the environment. As such, it will contribute to HELCOM’s work on nutrient input reduction as well as to broader efforts, such as the EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy. In treating waste waters, the countries in the Baltic Sea watershed generate about 3.5 million tonnes of dry solids annually and this is only expected to increase—making environmentally sustainable management vital. Things are moving ahead at the Krasny Bor hazardous waste landfill located outside St. Petersburg. An update was given at the meeting by the Russian delegation on the state of the site, as recent concerns have been raised regarding increased environmental threats caused by extreme weather conditions at the beginning of this year. The landfill has been listed since the early 1990s on HELCOM’s list of . According to HELCOM , Krasny Bor has a significant and harmful impact on the environment and that the situation is still deteriorating.At the Pressure Group’s meeting, the delegation from St. Petersburg also provided information on possible urgent measures to be undertaken to clean up the Hot Spot. In addition, a call was also presented for international cooperation in the efforts, including a study visit and financing opportunities.In addition, the first-ever regional assessment of the occurrence of pharmaceuticals in the Baltic Sea environment is also under discussion this week. The status report is being prepared together with the HELCOM State and Conservation Group and is set for release later this year.This week’s meeting, hosted by the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, is the fourth gathering of the HELCOM Working Group on Reduction of Pressures from the Baltic Sea Catchment Area (PRESSURE 4-2016). . All documents will be public after the meeting. * * * Note for editors:The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as , 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.The HELCOM works on issues related to nutrient and hazardous substance inputs from diffuse sources and point sources on land, including HELCOM nutrient reduction scheme implementation. The group ensures that necessary technical requirements are in place and develops solutions for policy-relevant questions and needs. Marine litter and underwater noise issues are also coordinated by the group. * * * For more information, please contact:Dmitry Frank-Kamenetsky Professional Secretary HELCOM Tel: +358 40 630 9933 Skype: helcom68 E-mail: dmitry.frank-kamenetsky(at)helcom.fi Johanna Laurila Information Secretary HELCOM Tel: +358 40 523 8988 Skype: helcom70 E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi​

Krasny Bor hazardous waste landfill has been another key topic in the HELCOM Pressure Group’s meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Baltic environment forum held in St. Petersburg

​​​A chance for environmental dialogue and speaking out recent ideas about the Baltic Sea marine protection started today at the 17th International in St. Petersburg, Russia. The continuing practice of a crowded annual event on marine protection during twenty years gives evidence that sharing experiences on a regional level is of great value. The main organizer of the 2-day forum is the St. Petersburg Public Organisation «». The year 2017 will be announced as the Year of Environment and Nature Protected Areas in the Russian Federation. Photo: Metsähallitus NHS/Essi Keskinen.Hundreds of participants have again joined the plenary as well as six roundtables packed with information on cleantech solutions, nature protection, agriculture and awareness raising, among others. Policy frameworks on most topics will be introduced and exchange ensured on current research and scientific results.  The roundtable on Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP), for instance, has a good representation of the different Ministries connected with MSP ​in the Russian Federation, important as in many countries the responsibility on MSP may fall under different, or several, Ministries.  The session on Chemical pollution focuses on identification of the priority chemicals polluting the Baltic Sea, and also the availability of data on inputs of nutrients, heavy metals and synthetic organic pollutants for a region-wide assessment. Four individual contributions will focus on pharmaceuticals in the Baltic Sea, timely also in the sense that HELCOM will release an assessment on the topic later this year. This year, the awards for personal contributions to the development of cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region, given by the V.I. Vernadskiy Ecological Fund, were given to Jacek Zaucha, Poland, VASAB Committee on Spatial Planning and Development of the Baltic Sea Region; as well as Dietrich Schulz, Germany, Federal Environment Agency and Chair of HELCOM Group on Sustainable Agricultural Practices; and Kai Myrberg, Senior Researcher, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), among others.Mr. Jacek Zauha receiving the V.I. Vernadskiy Ecological Fund award.  with full programme and speakers. Selected presentations will later be available. * * * Note for editorsThe Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as , 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. * * * For more information, please contact:Johanna LaurilaInformation SecretaryHELCOMTel: +358 40 523 8988Skype: helcom70E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)helcom.fi​

The continuing practice of a crowded event on marine protection gives evidence that sharing experiences on a regional level is of great value.

Statement of HELCOM Executive Secretary in 37th HELCOM Annual Meeting

​​Dear Colleagues,The milestone of the year 2015 was the adoption of the Regional Action Programme for Marine Litter in June. Concrete work for the plan started in May 2014, following the Ministerial commitment in 2013 binding all the Baltic coastal governments and EU. The drafting process, led by Germany, benefited from the expertise of non-governmental organizations, research institutions, industry, administration and authorities. Thanks to the wide consultations the plan is very comprehensive and includes an excellent set of actions to combat marine litter. Now the challenge is to find leaders and implementers for each action so that fine ideas are followed by concrete work and results. I am glad that we could take this forward in the HELCOM Marine Litter Stakeholder Conference held on Wednesday.In October the modernized database of Baltic Sea Marine Protected Areas (HELCOM MPAs) was released. The database provides easy and user-friendly access – for anybody interested – to detailed and new information on coastal and marine HELCOM MPAs such as on human pressures, threat categories and monitoring of species, biotopes and biotope complexes as well as about national protection status. I can proudly say that the HELCOM MPA database stands out among other similar databases on regional and global levels, particularly because of its vast coverage and because the information is contains is current.  The comparable data sets and assessments of pollution loads cover both the nine HELCOM countries and also more distant transboundary sources; they are unique from a worldwide perspective. Without this data it would be impossible to assess major pressures from human activities. Last year a new approach was introduced and agreed to the future Pollution Load Compilation (PLC) assessments. This will ensure more clearly distinguished products, smooth and operationalized regular updating of the products, and better sharing of responsibilities of different actors for timely delivery.One of these new products prepared and released in December was the assessment of progress towards reaching Country-allocated Reduction Targets. This was a major scientific achievement considering the complexity of the issue and high political interest, and we thank all the dedicated scientists and experts for the product. At the same time, it has become evident that there is a new need for a more concise product for policy-makers. Implementing this approach in PLC remains a main task – for all of us – also for this year, but it can only happen with the active involvement of more Contracting Parties. I am especially proud what we have managed to achieve within the project on making HELCOM eutrophication assessments operational (EUTRO-OPER). This project resulted in a tool for the integration of indicators, an assessment protocol, and a solution to increase the comparability of assessment of open sea and coastal waters. But importantly, work and data flows have been automated, including in-built step-wise approval procedure by national experts of the assessment product, providing a solid system for easy updates of the eutrophication assessment in the future. This was accomplished in partnership with ICES. The ambition is to follow this approach also for other themes as far as possible, within the work on the Second Holistic Assessment of the Ecosystem Health of the Baltic Sea (HOLASII).  The preparation of HOLAS II was at full speed last year and will continue to be the major umbrella activity of HELCOM in the near future. The aim is not only to produce a single assessment publication, but to create a longer-lasting and web-based system to serve future updates, and to enable better use nationally and increased outreach. This means improved documentation, semi-automation and use of the HELCOM working structure to maintain the system as opposed to project-maintained assessment.All necessary ingredients for making HOLAS II a success are in place – it has been planned in detail and is well coordinated, Contracting Parties are committed and their best experts are engaged, and for the first time ever I can state that I feel comfortable in terms of available resources for the exercise (albeit not all needs can be secured yet). EU grants for two actions we call BalticBOOST and HELCOM TAPAS projects have significantly helped in this respect and are very much appreciated.This carefully planned assessment will also be truly holistic, as it will include integrated assessment of themes on eutrophication, hazardous substances and biodiversity, and results of separate HELCOM Maritime Assessment will be used as well. Commercial fish species, as they are part of the marine ecosystem, will also be assessed, along with cumulative pressures and impacts from major human activities, based on the improved data and information. Marine litter and underwater noise, not assessed previously, will be new elements. For the first time, a social and economic analysis will also be truly incorporated into the HELCOM assessment by linking human activities to pressures and impacts on ecosystem components within one holistic framework. The work on social and economic analysis that started last year may prove itself to be one of the milestones or a break-through for future HELCOM work. Such aspect has been largely lacking in HELCOM work so far, which has prevented full use of HELCOM results in many spheres and sectors. We have now fair chances to rectify this obvious shortcoming. So we stand firm in terms of preparing HOLAS II in HELCOM. But there are other circumstances and processes that influence our work and need to be catered for. On the European level a parallel process takes place to make assessments. It makes no sense to duplicate the work, and the HELCOM countries that are also EU members have already agreed to use HOLAS II as the basis of the national assessments under the EUMSFD.>While I am absolutely convinced it will be possible to cater also for this need, I find it of paramount importance that both immediate national management needs and longer-term HELCOM policy needs are met, and that:the HELCOM assessment system improves and is based on the best available sciencethat we are able to compare the outcome to the previous assessment that we show how far from reaching the Good Environmental Status (GES) we are – as likely most of the areas in the Baltic Sea will be still short of the target – and that we also show progress and improvement.We will not be in a position to maintain political attention unless we start demonstrating the effects our decisions and actions are bringing.Last but not least, two issues that have been or are about to be concluded during this Meeting are important accomplishments as well: a new HELCOM Recommendation on sustainable aquaculture, efficiently led by the Fish group, established not so long ago but already working at full speed, and a decision to submit the proposal by HELCOM countries to designate the Baltic Sea as a NECA IMO MEPC 70, in parallel with the North Sea NECA submission. This has been a splendid meeting of the Helsinki Commission, thank you Contracting Parties, Observers and colleagues in the Secretariat.  

The Statement of Executive Secretary on the work of HELCOM Secretariat including her comments and evaluation of the work of the Commission and its subsidiary bodies.