HELCOM launches an overarching environmental assessment of the status of the Baltic Sea
Helsinki, 5 March (HELCOM Information Service) – The 30th annual Meeting of the Helsinki Commission ended here today with the adoption of the roadmap for a holistic assessment of the environmental status of the Baltic Sea. At the two-day meeting, the Delegations of the HELCOM Member States also reviewed the organisation’s progress in the protection of the Baltic marine environment from pollution and set new objectives and priorities for the future work. This was the first annual HELCOM Meeting under the two-year Russian Chairmanship, which began on 1 July 2008. It was conducted by the Chairman of HELCOM Igor Maydanov.
The implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan which aims to drastically reduce pollution to the marine environment and restores its good ecological status by 2021 topped the agenda of the Meeting. The Delegations of the Member States particularly discussed the preparations for the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in Moscow in 2010, where the coastal countries will present their national programmes of action to implement the HELCOM plan. The holistic assessment of the environmental status of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS Project) which will assist the harmonized implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan was one of the key issues. This assessment is intended to be ready by the Moscow Ministerial Meeting in May 2010.
“The HELCOM holistic assessment of the state of the Baltic Sea environment, which will be prepared jointly by the scientific community around the sea, is crucial for the successful implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan,” says Igor Maydanov. “It sets the baseline to follow the effectiveness of the actions featured in the plan. The HOLAS Project will integrate the quantitative assessments on eutrophication, caused by excessive nutrient pollution, biodiversity, inputs and effects of hazardous substances, as well as other relevant assessments, and will additionally take onboard overarching drivers, such as climate change and socio-economic development.”
In another bold move HELCOM today decided to launch an initiative to create a joint Baltic-wide consortium of Baltic organizations active in Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) to enhance regional coordination. Such a consortium with strong HELCOM involvement could include VASAB, the Nordic Council of Ministers, Baltic RAC, and other interested organisations. Maritime spatial planning is part of HELCOM’s efforts to implement the ecosystem approach, create environmental integration across different sectors and ensure sustainability of natural resource use as reflected in the Baltic Sea Action Plan.
“Due to the strongly international nature of maritime activities and environmental in the Baltic Sea, as well as the implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan, HELCOM is a key player in the regional Baltic Sea maritime spatial planning,” says Anne Christine Brusendorff, HELCOM’s Executive Secretary. “But we also are of the opinion that in order to ensure that environmental objectives are duly taken into account and to guarantee future synergies within the Baltic Sea region, HELCOM MSP activities should be carried out in cooperation with other regional organisations active in the this field.”
The Helsinki Commission is planning to propose that such a joint Baltic-wide consortium will be a part of a Pilot Project under the 2008 EU MSP roadmap, in order to ensure that the emerging regional MSP process delivers added value to existing activities in HELCOM and in other organisations. An outcome of such a project could be adopted during the 2010 HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in Moscow.
Representatives of the HELCOM Member States also considered the outcome of the Fourth Stakeholder Conference on the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan, which was held prior to the annual Meeting. Political, economic and scientific pre-requisites for timely and successfully achieving a healthy Baltic Sea was the major theme of the Conference. Participants, representing governments, scientific and business communities of the Baltic Sea coastal countries, as well as the European Community, and major regional organisations discussed how to ensure good linkages between science and decision-making, enhanced leadership and more efficient use of the financial instruments in order to guarantee successful implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan.
The annual Helsinki Commission Meeting reviewed the activities of all the HELCOM Subsidiary Groups, as well as working programmes, intersessional work and ongoing projects. The Meeting considered new thematic assessments, including on eutrophication, and biodiversity and nature conservation. The recent launch of two large projects co-financed by EU, one aiming at considerably improving the readiness of the coastal countries to respond to major spills of oil and hazardous substances (BRISK) and the other one focusing on identification of sources of the selected hazardous substances by performing screening in municipal and industrial wastewaters (COHIBA) were among the major issues on the agenda of the Meeting. Another new project crucial for the success of the action plan discussed at the Meeting was BaltHazAR. This project, launched in early 2009 with the financial support from the European Parliament pilot project facility, specifically aims at the reduction of losses of hazardous substances and nutrients from point sources in Russian regions of St.Petersburg/Leningrad and Kaliningrad.
Additionally, the annual HELCOM Meeting welcomed the outcome of the Chairman’s recent working visit to Minsk, where he discussed Belarus’s possible accession to the Helsinki Convention. The Delegations of the HELCOM Member States mandated the Chairman to continue the negotiations with a view to have a preliminary roadmap ready by June 2009. Belarus has been an observer to HELCOM since 1997. Up to 45% of its territory lies in the Baltic Sea catchment area. The available data shows that the transboundary pollution load to the Baltic Sea coming from Belarus is significant. Most of the pollution from Belarus comes with riverine loads via Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Addressing transboundary pollution originating in Belarus and other non-HELCOM member countries lying in the catchment area has been identified as one of the priority actions for the Helsinki Commission in order to restore the good ecological status of the Baltic marine environment. Besides Belarus, the Delegations also supported the idea to invite Ukraine and the Czech Republic to join the Helsinki Convention.
Press releases on the outcome of the Fourth Stakeholder Conference on the Baltic Sea Action Plan: http://www.helcom.fi/press_office/news_helcom/en_GB/4_Stakeholder_Conf_outcome/
Note to Editors:
The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, more usually known as the Helsinki Commission, or HELCOM, is an intergovernmental organisation of all the nine Baltic Sea countries and the EU which works to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution.
HELCOM is the governing body of the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area," known as the Helsinki Convention.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Nikolay Vlasov
Tel: +358 (0)207 412 635
Fax: +358 (0)207 412 639