The HELCOM Pressure group met in Riga, Latvia from 10 to 12 October 2018 to tackle matters related to land-based pollution of the Baltic Sea, during the Ninth Meeting of the Working Group on Reduction of Pressures from the Baltic Sea Catchment Area (PRESSURE 9-2018).

The Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP), HELCOM's strategic tool for a healthy Baltic Sea, was a major item on the agenda, with the group discussing a work plan for an update beyond its current end in 2021. 

As part of the BSAP update process, PRESSURE 9-2018 consented to review over a hundred HELCOM agreements and recommendations related to land-based pollution and nutrient inputs, in order to assess the status of their implementation by the HELCOM countries.

"This review, together with evaluating emerging environmental challenges, is important for the BSAP update. The results will allow for the formulation of new recommendations, and help us understand what actions work and what don't," said Monika Stankiewicz, HELCOM's Executive Secretary, adding that a better comprehension of how the ecosystem responds to the current measures, and within which timeframes, would be the next step  for devising pertinent improvements.

In Riga, the HELCOM group also agreed to on the first practical steps to elaborate the regional principles and risk assessment framework for the management of internal nutrient reserves through sea-based measures. Nutrients have accumulated in the Baltic Sea over time and are aggravating eutrophication.

In addition, progress of implementation of the Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter was also discussed. It was further agreed on the need for more efforts, especially on waste management to prevent litter and microliter from entering the sea. Storm water management, eco-design to reduce over-packaging, and discarded or lost fishing gear were also addressed. 

The importance of environmental education and public outreach in addressing the litter issue was particularly highlighted, welcoming international public campaigns such as the Clean Beach 2018

Specific attention was also placed on hazardous substances. A suggestion for HELCOM indicators on hazardous substances to integrate information on both loads and their sources, was strongly welcomed by the participants, allowing for a more timely and precise response to emerging pollution threats. 

The PRESSURE 9-2018 Meeting attracted over 40 representatives from all contracting parties to the Helsinki Convention and observers from regional NGOs and professional associations with stakes in the Baltic Sea. 

For more information, read the outcome document of the PRESSURE 9-2018 Meeting.