HELCOM Meeting Assesses Progress towards a Healthier Baltic Sea
6 March 2012, Helsinki, Finland – The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) will hold its annual meeting in Helsinki on 6–7 March 2012, participated by the representatives of the nine HELCOM member states and EU.
A great number of topics will be addressed, all of them related to the latest progress and updates on implementing the Baltic Sea Action Plan (2007–2021), structured under four broad areas: eutrophication, hazardous substances, biodiversity and maritime activities.
Out of the over 30 items in the meeting agenda, below highlights of some points of progress:
· Follow-up on the national progress towards reaching the nutrient reduction targets of the Baltic Sea Action Plan, as well as the reviewing and strengthening of the targets, are among the most important current HELCOM processes.
· The ambitious aim to have a common, jointly monitored set of core indicators for biodiversity, hazardous substances and eutrophication in the Baltic Sea is within reach. HELCOM CORESET Interim report, presented to the Meeting and to be published soon, deals with the process for the selection of core indicators; intermediate results and expert advice by the project.
· HELCOM monitoring programmes are under a revision through the new HELCOM MORE Project, which scrutinizes and assesses gaps in parameters, processes and products of HELCOM’s coordinated monitoring
· For the first time ever, all Baltic Sea animal and plant species visible to the human eye have been collected in a Checklist, just released on the HELCOM website. This checklist will be the base for listing the species under threat in the Baltic Sea into a Red List during 2012. The project is also expected to create a classification and threat assessment of biotopes of the Baltic Sea.
· Due to insufficient management, fisheries actions can be in conflict with the conservation objectives of the marine protected areas of the Baltic Sea. The impacts of fishing and more sustainable measures are being addressed in a new project, BALTFIMPA, a larger proposal of which is asked to be agreed by the Meeting.
· The Meeting will consider the progress of the BALTHAZAR Project, which reported high nutrient concentration in the Luga river in the Gulf of Finland, and information on the achievements of the Balthazar Phase I and II, including pilots on improved manure handling and safe handling of mercury lamps, and more harmonized monitoring in St. Petersburg, Leningrad and Kaliningrad regions in Russia.
· A large project called Control of Hazardous Substances in the Baltic Sea Region (COHIBA 2009–2012) has identified sources, evaluated effluents and flow patterns and assessed different management measures of hazardous substances in the Baltic region. Among the findings are: Diffuse (household related) sources appear to be increasingly important when attempting to reduce pollution, hence advanced municipal wastewater treatment stays as an important measure; long distance and especially airborne transmission play more important role than assumed; and a few substance specific regulation gaps remain.
· New HELCOM Recommendation addressing shoreline response to pollution is expected to be adopted. The Recommendation requires the Baltic Sea countries to develop and put into place a shoreline response plan – one that is integrated with the national contingency plan for accidents at sea. It will ensure permanent cooperation and that all the coastal states achieve a corresponding level of preparedness..
· HELCOM experts have finalized a joint submission, now expected to be considered as complete, to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to designate the Baltic Sea as a Nitrogen (NOx) Emission Control Area (NECA) under the international MARPOL Convention. Under the NECA status, the Baltic Sea will see substantial reductions in the ship emissions of NOx.
The Annual Meeting is the highest decision-making body of HELCOM.
Note for editors:
The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), is an intergovernmental organization of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region.
HELCOM is the governing body of the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’, more usually known as the Helsinki Convention.
For further information, please contact
Ms. Johanna Laurila
Tel: +358 40 523 8988
Fax: +358 207 412 645