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 (SBSTTA-22).
"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 Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter, 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 ocean-related Sustainable Development Goalsand Aichi Biodiversity Targets, 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 "State of the Baltic Sea" reportthat 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.