Towards a healthy Baltic Sea – HELCOM in a nutshell

Since the signing of the Helsinki Convention 40 years ago, HELCOM (Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission) has been committed to protecting the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution through intergovernmental cooperation. HELCOM governs the Convention and its present Contracting Parties are Denmark, Estonia, the European Union, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden.

HELCOM's vision for the future is a healthy Baltic Sea environment with diverse biological components functioning in balance, resulting in a good ecological status and supporting a wide range of sustainable economic and social activities. To achieve this goal, HELCOM is active in a variety of fields that are central to cross-sectorial protection of the marine environment. HELCOM acts as a regional information hub, coordinating monitoring and compiling scientific results to support informed decision-making by the Contracting Parties.

The overarching Baltic Sea Action Plan

A central operational programme of HELCOM is the Baltic Sea Action Plan, designed for restoring the good ecological status of the Baltic marine environment by 2021. The strategy, adopted by all the coastal states and the EU in 2007 at the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in Krakow, is a crucial stepping stone for wider and more efficient actions to combat the continuing deterioration of the marine environment resulting from human activities. Moreover, the Plan provides a concrete basis for HELCOM work and stimulates even closer multilateral cooperation around the Baltic Sea region.

Countries have committed to the objectives set in the Action Plan, and the progress made – or lack thereof – is assessed every few years at Ministerial Meetings, the latest of which was held in Copenhagen on 3 October 2013 (Ministerial Declaration).

Tackling eutrophication by exceptional nutrient reduction scheme

Eutrophication is one of the main threats to the Baltic Sea ecosystem, and to tackle it, a globally exceptional nutrient reduction scheme was first established by HELCOM with the 2007 Baltic Sea Action Plan. The country-wise nutrient reduction targets of the scheme have been revised using improved data and models, and new figures were agreed on by the Ministerial Meeting 2013. Although substantial measures have already been taken to reduce nutrient pollution, it will take time before the effects of the measures can be seen at sea.

More information about HELCOM, its activities and the Baltic Sea Action Plan can be found at: www.helcom.fi.