Attending the Regional Workshop on UN World Ocean Assessment II, at Malta University on 27 August 2018 (from the left): Irina Makarenko from the Black Sea Commission Secretariat, Lena Bergström and Monika Stankiewicz from the HELCOM Secretariat, and Jo Foden from the OSPAR Secretariat.

A HELCOM team presented its expertise on marine management and sea assessment during a United Nations-led regional workshop held in Valetta, Malta from 27 to 28 August 2018. Preparing for the Second Global Integrated Marine Assessment (WOA II, or World Ocean Assessment II), the workshop specifically covered the North Atlantic, the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea regions.

The World Ocean Assessments are part of the so-called Regular Process – short for the United Nations Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects. According to the UN, the assessments aim "to improve understanding of the oceans and to develop a global mechanism for delivering science-based information to decision makers and [the] public."

While the first cycle of the Regular Process focused on establishing a baseline for measuring the state of the marine environment, the second cycle, WOA II, was extended to evaluate trends in the marine environment and identify gaps. WOA II was launched by the UN General Assembly in December 2015, and runs from 2016 to 2020.

During the Valetta workshop, HELCOM presented the findings from its recently concluded Second Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS II), an in-depth analysis of the ecological state of the Baltic Sea and the pressures it is affected by. The results were published in the newly released HELCOM State of the Baltic Sea report.

The HOLAS II process and the HELCOM report already cover the majority of the aspects foreseen in WOA II for the Baltic Sea. HELCOM not only possesses deep knowledge about the Baltic Sea's ecological state, but also about the management of a complex and regional sea assessment process.

The Valetta meeting was opened by Carmelo Abela, the Maltese Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion. It has been attended by some 30 experts, with participants from Sweden, Estonia and the HELCOM Secretariat representing the Baltic Sea region.

Alongside HELCOM for the Baltic Sea, three other regional seas conventions were covered by the workshop, namely OSPAR for the North-East Atlantic, the Mediterranean Action Plan, and the Black Sea Commission.

WOA II aims to support informed decision-making and thus contribute to managing in a sustainable manner human activity that affect the oceans and seas, in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and other applicable international instruments and initiatives.