The nine new EBSAs in the Baltic Sea © HELCOM

Helsinki, 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 UN Biodiversity Conferenceheld in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt from 17 to 29 November 2018.

Altogether, the nine so-called Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (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 ocean-related Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 14).

The new EBSAs were identified in Helsinki earlier in February 2018 during the Baltic EBSA workshop convened by the UN Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in collaboration with HELCOM, with financial support from Finland and Sweden.

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, also known as UN Biodiversity) that keeps the registry, 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 ecosystem approach, 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 HELCOM assessments of the state of the Baltic Sea.

The description of the EBSAs was based on scientific data compiled by Duke University, 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 2018 UN Biodiversity Conference 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 Aichi global biodiversity targets for 2020 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 Finland

  • Inner 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 EBSAs

  • Uniqueness or Rarity

  • Special importance for life history stages of species

  • Importance for threatened, endangered or declining species and/or habitats

  • Vulnerability, Fragility, Sensitivity, or Slow recovery

  • Biological Productivity

  • Biological Diversity

  • Naturalness



Note for editors


For immediate release



HELCOM 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 Littfass
Communication Secretary
+358 40 647 3996