The results presented in this first version of the State of the Baltic Sea report will be further elaborated and selected data will be updated or refined. The HELCOM community will analyse these first results in order to agree on the conclusions and give them further consideration in relation to ongoing regional activities.

HELCOM will from mid-2017 to mid-2018 update the assessment results of this first version of the State of the Baltic Sea report, and a consolidated and finalized version of the report will be published in June 2018. The revised version will include data for the year 2016, extending the assessment period to 2011-2016, and further additions and improvement to the data and the report, as identified by the Contracting Parties, HELCOM working groups and experts.

Foreseen Updates

The update of the ‘State of the Baltic Sea’ report will include, for example, a reflection of changes in status since the HELCOM initial holistic assessment (HELCOM 2010) and a development of summaries and key messages for policy makers. Updates and improvements of figures and underlying data will also be made (Table 8.1). The updated version is foreseen to include, inter alia, results from the Sixth HELCOM Pollution Load Compilation (PLC-6), ICES advice on commercial fish covering the years 2011-2016, and possible inclusion of new indicators currently under development.

In the updated report, HELCOM aims to include a chapter on the conclusions and a future outlook, based on an analysis of the first results and on considerations within HELCOM.

The list below presents a non-exhaustive list of updates and improvements to the final version of the State of the Baltic Sea report to be implemented by June 2018.

  • Overall
    • Reflect as far as possible the change in status since the first holistic assessment, acknowledging that there are new methods and indicators introduced;
    • Reflect and interpret relationships between the individual chapters, providing for a more holistic assessment;
    • Include as feasible an analysis on why the objectives of the BSAP have not been reached yet.
  • Executive summary
    • A more narrative approach could be taken to the summary;
    • Develop key messages for policy makers
  • Chapter 1: Our Baltic Sea
    • Figures 1.4-1.6 showing trends in sea ice, temperature, salinity: The layout to be modified to help distinguish trends in the figures; Add figure on long-term trends of oxygen concentration;
    • Figure 1.8 showing spatial information on oxygen conditions; update the map and include also oxygen situation on the Gulf of Finland. Maps to show extent of O2-deficiency areas or O2-free zones instead of the distribution of O2 concentrations.
  • Chapter 3: Humans & the ecosystem
    • Investigate the possibility to include overview of other economic sectors with the aim to assess the relative importance of the different sectors to each country and the region as a whole.
  • Chapter 4: Pressures & their status
    • Chapter 4.1 on eutrophication: Add outcome from HELCOM PLC-6, for example source apportionment.
    • Chapter 4.3 on marine litter: Categories of litter on the seabed to be included if available by the 2018 update.
    • Chapter 4.4 on underwater sound: Add figures from the BIAS project on soundscape maps; Add a table showing impulsive events reported to the regional registry, Improve information on the distribution of harbour porpoise in the southwestern Baltic Sea in figure 4.4.3.
    • Chapter 4.5 on non-indigenous species: Some Contracting Parties have identified the need to update the AquaNIS data base, at the latest when 2016 data are added as a basis for updating the indicator evaluation.
    • Chapter 4.6 on commercial fish: take note of a decrease in the fishing mortality of sprat as evident in the ICES advice of 2017.
    • Chapter 4.7 on seabed loss and physical disturbance: Consider including a figure on the relative distribution of human activities connected with pressures causing physical disturbance in the Baltic Sea sub-basins (provided sufficient certainty in the underlying data.
  • Chapter 5: Biodiversity & its status
    • Chapter 5.3 on fish: to be updated based on ICES 2017 Advice, including information on Eastern Baltic cod.
    • Chapter 5.4 on mammals: consider updating information on harbor porpoise in the Kattegat-Belt Sea-Western Baltic based on results from the SCANS survey; The text for the ringed seal refers mostly to the population of the Gulf of Bothnia, therefore it should be checked if the development over time could be shown for the whole Gulf of Bothnia and not just for Bothnian Bay (Fig 5.4.7); underline that the question of genetic distinction of harbour porpoises from the Western and Baltic Populations has not been clearly solved, taking into account that these populations can mix.
    • Chapter 5.5 on birds: Include figure on trend over time in the bird indicator
  • Chapter 6: Cumulative impacts
    • Checking and analysis of the sensitivity scoring
    • Check the application of the layers on leisure boating (which currently overestimates the impacts on benthic habitats), hydrological conditions (to check if it is underestimated), seal hunting, the estimated loss and disturbance of benthic habitats from bathing sites, dredging and disposal of dredged material
    • The colour scheme of the map of the BSPI/BSII should be revised for a better understanding it would be good if low impact is light grey, so there is a smooth transition to white with no impact / no data
  • New chapter
    • Conclusion and future outlook to be added, including future policy perspectives

Data updating for the 2018 version of ‘State of the Baltic Sea’ report

The sections below present the planned data updating as well as desired improvements to the spatial data sets on human activities and pressures, which underlie the assessments of seabed loss and physical disturbance and cumulative impacts (Chapters 4.7 and 6). The update also includes an evaluation of the spatial datasets on ecosystem components used in the Baltic Sea Impact Index (Chapter 6).

Indicators – general update to include 2016 data

Underlying data for indicators will be updated to include data from 2016 when the ‘State of the Baltic Sea’ report is updated in 2018.

Spatial data sets on human activities and pressures

Selected human activity/pressure layers will be further developed and fine-tuned, pending resources and taking into account the work and review by relevant working groups. This includes the following datasets:

  • Human activity “Dredging”, used in the aggregated pressure layer “Physical loss” and “Physical disturbance”
  • Human activity “Cables” , used in “Electromagnetism”
  • Human activity “Fossil fuel energy production”, used in the aggregated pressure layer “Input of heat”
  • Pressure layers representing concentrations of nutrients and hazardous substances, including complementing these with additional data.
  • Data layers relating to commercial fishing will be updated based on new vessel monitoring system data (VMS) to be provided by ICES following the HELCOM request in 2017 for ICES advice.

Ecosystem component spatial data

More precise spatial data on ecosystem components will be developed for selected layers, pending resources. In particular, the pelagic habitat layer ‘Productive surface waters’, and the deep water habitat layer ‘Bottom oxygen’ have been identified for update or improvement, as well as the data set on mammal distribution, to provide more detailed information on occurrence in coastal areas.

In addition, the following datasets have been identified to be improved, pending available data and resources: ‘Broadscale habitats’ and ‘Natura2000 habitats’ (Additional national datasets could be incorporated), Fish (For the abundance maps of cod, herring and sprat, as well as pikeperch and perch recruitment areas, improved data could be used if available), and ‘Habitat forming species’ (Results from new mapping could be incorporated, if available).

What happens next?

HELCOM is carrying out a regional consultation of the first version of the ‘State of the Baltic Sea’ report, encouraging international non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations to give feedback on the report. The report is also available for use by the HELCOM countries in national consultation. The comments received through the regional consultation, or material thereof, will be considered in parallel with the updating of the report which is outlined in this chapter.

HELCOM will now analyse these first results in order to agree on the conclusions and further consideration when consolidating the report in 2018, including in the next Ministerial meeting, and to reflect on those conclusions and a future outlook in the updated version.