HELCOM ministerial meeting to draw up course of action for the Baltic Sea
High-level representatives of the Baltic Sea countries meet in Brussels on 6 March to discuss state and future of the Baltic marine environment. Talks focus on how to achieve a healthy Baltic Sea in light of current regional targets and global goals.
The 2021 target year of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP), adopted in 2007 and aiming to restore the good ecological status of the Baltic marine environment, is only three years away. HELCOM's latest assessments show that while much has been accomplished, and in spite of some positive signals, the efforts so far have not led to the recovery of the Baltic Sea.
STRENGTHENED BSAP IMPLEMENTATION NEEDED
One of the duties of HELCOM – the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission – is to regularly follow up on the implementation of agreed-upon actions for the Baltic marine environment. A new HELCOM report (PDF), published just ahead of the Ministerial Meeting, summarizes 177 of the actions with concrete BSAP targets and the extent to which they have been completed.
The report shows that as of 2017, nearly 70 % of joint actions (carried out jointly through HELCOM) in the Baltic Sea Action Plan have been implemented. Examples of completed joint actions include developing a Regional Action Plan on marine litter, preparing a ban on discharge of untreated sewage from passenger ships, and adopting a HELCOM Recommendation on sustainable aquaculture.
Of the actions that require steps to be taken at the national level, 23% are completed by all countries and an additional 62% completed by some of the countries. Actions that all countries have completed include, for instance, ratifying Annex VI of MARPOL 73/78 convention on prevention of air pollution from ships, developing long-term management plans for sprat and herring, and conserving at least ten wild salmon populations in the Baltic Sea region.
The Ministerial Meeting is expected to decide on intensified efforts and stronger follow-through on the BSAP, both to reach regional goals and to fulfil the Agenda 2030 in the region.
NEW AND DEVELOPING ISSUES IN FUTURE POLICIES
In addition to working for existing goals, the Ministerial Meeting is tasked with planning for the years after the current BSAP target year of 2021. Advancing scientific knowledge and new emerging issues, such as impacts from pharmaceuticals and micro-pollutants, call for the Baltic Sea community to continously learn and adapt their actions. Long-term changes like climate change affect the status of the environment, and must also be addressed when updating Baltic Sea policies and measures for future goals.
The Meeting will also follow up on the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York in June 2017, where HELCOM made several voluntary commitments towards SDG 14 – "Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources". The countries around the Baltic Sea have agreed to use HELCOM as the regional arena for coordinating work on those SDGs that relate to marine and water issues.
THE FOUR GOALS OF THE BSAP
The ambitious vision of the Baltic Sea Action Plan is a healthy Baltic Sea environment, with diverse biological components functioning in balance, resulting in good environmental/ecological status and supporting a wide range of sustainable human economic and social activities. The more specific goals of the BSAP are to achieve
a Baltic Sea unaffected by eutrophication
a Baltic Sea undisturbed by hazardous substances
environmentally friendly maritime activities, and
favourable status of Baltic Sea biodiversity.
For each goal, the BSAP specifies a number of more specific objectives and actions, which have later been supplemented in HELCOM Ministerial Declarations in 2010 and 2013. Adopted by all the coastal states and the EU in 2007, the BSAP provides a concrete basis for HELCOM work.
he 2018 HELCOM Ministerial Meeting will be held on 6 March in Brussels, Belgium, under the EU chairmanship of HELCOM. The Ministers of the Environment of the nine Baltic coastal states and the EU Environment Commissioner will gather to discuss the status and the future of the Baltic Sea marine environment. The outcome of the 2018 Ministerial Meeting is expected to revolve around new actions to meet the Sustainable Development Goals in the Baltic Sea, strengthening implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan by 2021, and adjusting the Baltic Sea Action Plan based on new knowledge and future challenges. More information on the Meeting web page.
The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as HELCOM, is an intergovernmental organization of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union. HELCOM has worked since 1974 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.
Source and more information: HELCOM