HELCOM passes the 10% landmark for the Baltic Sea protected areas
Helsinki, 16 February (HELCOM Information Service) – The HELCOM Nature Protection and Biodiversity Group (HELCOM HABITAT) will convene its twelfth regular meeting on 17-19 February in Tallinn, Estonia, to discuss new and ongoing projects and programmes to halt the decline in biodiversity and habitat destruction and to protect the endangered species in the Baltic marine area.
The key topic on the Agenda is the preparations for the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting which will be held on 20 May in Moscow. Experts from the Baltic Sea countries will particularly focus on the status of the network of the Baltic Sea Protected Areas (BSPAs) and issues related to maritime spatial planning, which will be addressed at the Ministerial Meeting.
According to the results from a draft report on the status and ecological coherence of the network of marine protected areas in the Baltic Sea that will be presented to the HELCOM HABITAT meeting, nearly 11% of the Baltic marine area is currently being protected by the network of BSPAs. Thus, the goal of protecting 10% of every ecoregion by 2010 set by the Convention on Biological Diversity has been reached for the Baltic Sea. “There has been a recent increase in the area covered by the protected areas,” says Anne Christine Brusendorff, HELCOM’s Executive Secretary. “In 2004, less than 4% of the marine area was protected.” Protected areas covered in the assessment included both HELCOM’s Baltic Sea Protected Areas, as well as marine areas protected by the EU Natura2000 network.
Despite the areal goal having been reached, the assessment of ecological coherence of the network of marine protected areas shows that the quality of the network is still inadequate due to poor environmental quality and anthropogenic pressures. Eutrophication extends to nearly all protected areas as 96% of the areas are affected. There is a significant amount of ship traffic passing through the protected areas creating noise, wave action and adding to the risk of oil spills. In addition, general pollution was considered a threat to the protected areas.
Although the overall goal of 10% has been reached for the Baltic Sea as a whole this target has not been reached for all sub-basins of the Baltic Sea or countries and protection of offshore waters is still inadequate. In addition, there is still a deficiency in the way the protected areas are managed since many of the protected areas lack proper management.
The HABITAT Meeting will consider draft broad-scale principles for Maritime Spatial Planning. They have been prepared in cooperation by all Baltic Sea countries and the EU and they provide general principles for the Baltic Sea countries to take into account when developing maritime spatial planning. Planning at sea is often transboundary and several countries may need to be involved in the process. In addition, the specific natural conditions of the Baltic Sea require attention. The principles will be discussed and further prepared with the aim to present them as joint HELCOM-VASAB principles for adoption by the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting.
The Meeting will also consider a proposal by Finland to establish an expert working group on cormorants within the HELCOM framework. The proposed group would focus especially on collating and providing a data and information basis from a Baltic wide perspective for decision making related to cormorants.
Additionally, the Meeting will discuss how to address alien species in the Baltic Sea in order to reduce their spreading, consider progress in an assessment of threat status of Baltic Sea mammals, macrophytes, birds, fishes, benthic invertebrates and biotopes as well as proposals for new projects on indicator development and remediation of sturgeon in the Baltic Sea.
The Meeting will be conducted by the Vice-Chair of HELCOM HABITAT, Mr. Dieter Boedeker of Germany.
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 and to ensure safety of navigation.
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.
HELCOM HABITAT, which is one of the HELCOM Working Groups, works to conserve and protect biodiversity, species and habitats and promote the sustainable use of living marine resources, and to ensure that the need for environmental protection is duly considered in different activities that affect the marine environment, by using tools such as spatial planning and environmental impact assessments.
For more information, please contact:
Ms. Maria Laamanen
Tel: +358 (0)46 850 9198
Fax: +358 (0)207 412 645
Mr. Nikolay Vlasov
Tel: +358 (0)46 850 9196
Fax: +358 (0)207 412 645