For the 2018 HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in Brussels, environmental cartoonist Seppo Leinonen created eleven drawings, in cooperation with the HELCOM Secretariat, on themes relevant to HELCOM and its work. Ten drawings connect to the Contracting Parties, who through their leadership and support contribute to reaching the common goals for the Baltic Sea. One drawing is dedicated to the HELCOM Chair.
The drawings were exhibited at the Meeting as well as presented to the Ministerial delegations as meeting souvenirs.
HELCOM decided in 2013 that all countries should have
nutrient accounting on farms by the end of 2018: farms would calculate and report
how much nitrogen and phosphorous they use each year. This is a tool for
efficient nutrient use in agriculture, both for planning fertilization and for
nutrient balancing after fertilization.
Denmark has a strong regulation on nutrient accounting and
is the only country in the Baltic Sea with a quota system allocating a certain
amount of nitrogen and phosphorous to each farm.
A list of significant
pollution sites around the Baltic Sea – HELCOM Hot Spots – was established in
1992. Three quarters (118 hot spots, as of December 2016) have since been
cleaned up, including wastewater treatment facilities, various industrial sites,
and agricultural run-off.
Estonia has deleted 11 out of 12 hot spots in the country.
The most recently deleted Baltic hot spot (2016) was Estonian: Kehra paper
mill, previously a significant industrial polluter, now meeting all HELCOM requirements.
HELCOM is one of the many Regional Seas Conventions in the world,
and one of four in Europe. HELCOM cooperates directly with OSPAR (Convention
for the North-East Atlantic), and also has common ground with two other Regional
Seas Conventions in Europe (in the Black Sea and Mediterranean).
The EU, as a Contracting Party in HELCOM, has a special
interest as well as possibilities to enhance the links between the work in the
four regional seas, for exchange of information and experiences, for sharing
the processes on common issues, and for enhancing cooperation. The EU is, for
instance, striving for a Europe-wide picture of the state of the marine
environment via the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
Brussels may appear far from the Baltic, but the EU has been
a HELCOM member for long, contributing to its successes. The EU has been showing
great attention and determination for HELCOM matters during the past two years
of chairmanship. With her exceptional dedication and knowledge, Marianne
Wenning, HELCOM Chair, shows us the way forward.
Nutrient recycling helps combat eutrophication while keeping
nutrients in the food cycle. It aims to secure that as nutrients have passed
through the whole food chain, they are in the end returned back to soil for
plant production – allowing the cycle to begin again. Discussions ahead of the
2018 HELCOM Ministerial Meeting have included a possible regional strategy for nutrient
recycling in the Baltic Sea area.
Finland is a forerunner in nutrient recycling, as part of
its ambitious work in circular economy, and has initiated regional work on this
topic in HELCOM.
Marine litter is a rapidly growing concern at sea and on shores
alike. It is believed to have a considerable impact on the environment globally,
and it is an issue of concern also in the Baltic. Marine litter is not only an
aesthetic problem but incurs socioeconomic costs, threatens human health and
safety, and has impacts on marine organisms. Since 2015, HELCOM has a Regional
Action Plan for marine litter.
Germany has actively raised the issue of marine litter both
in a Baltic context and on a global level, achieving attention at the highest
To reach the goals of international policies related to
oceans and seas, countries that share the same waters need to work together and
better coordinate on how those waters and their resources are used sustainably.
The HELCOM-VASAB Baltic Sea Broad-scale Maritime Spatial Planning Principles
from 2010 aim to help Baltic Sea countries in developing national maritime
spatial plans that are coherent across borders and that apply the ecosystem
Latvia is one of the Baltic Sea countries that has high
ambitions as to incorporating a wide range of information on marine environment
in MSP and utilizing best available knowledge on ecosystems in the planning
Around 40,000 tonnes of chemical munitions were dumped into
the Baltic Sea after the Second World War, containing some 15,000 tonnes of
chemical warfare agents. Even today, the possibility cannot be ruled out of
people encountering chemical warfare materials and other objects while working
in the marine environment of the southern and western Baltic Sea. HELCOM works
to compile and assess information about all kinds of hazardous objects and to assess
the associated risks.
Lithuania has worked for addressing the problem of dumped
chemical munitions, including for increased awareness of its environmental
effects and for sharing the Baltic Sea experience globally.
Fishing gear is lost in the sea for many reasons. It
sometimes drifts far before settling on the seabed, and keeps entangling marine
life for a long time. HELCOM’s Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter includes
actions related to removal of lost gear and to reducing the loss of fishing
gear, as well as initiatives to remove litter.
Poland is one of the first countries in the Baltic Sea where
a larger scale removal of lost fishing gear has been piloted. Already in 2011, 4288
kg of ghost nets were retrieved in Polish waters during 15 days of trawling the
Improving municipal waste water treatment is a highly
cost-efficient measure to reduce nutrient loads, a major cause of pollution in
the Baltic Sea. Many cities in the Baltic Sea region have improved their
treatment standards in recent decades and years, and are, for instance, meeting
the requirements set by the EU Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. However, even
stricter standards, as set by HELCOM, are needed to save the sensitive marine
environment of the Baltic Sea.
Russia has high aims for nutrient removal in its Saint
Petersburg wastewater treatment plant, which now even exceeds the demanding HELCOM
Environmentally friendly shipping is a priority for all Baltic
Sea countries. The Baltic Sea is the first area in the world to receive the
status of a special area for sewage from passenger ships according to the
amended rules of the International Maritime Organization, banning discharge of
untreated sewage starting 2021. Together with the recently agreed NOx Emission
Control Area, this will reduce pollution from shipping in the Baltic Sea.
Sweden successfully brokered the final agreement among
HELCOM countries on a proposal for a sewage ban for the International Maritime
Seppo Leinonen is known both in Finland and abroad as a cartoonist specialized
in nature and environment. He draws humorous and critical cartoons of serious
issues like biodiversity, climate change and environmental problems. A lifelong
nature interest and tedious background studies are demonstrated in his
cartoons, which contain, in addition to amusement, also information of nature
and natural sciences.