Photo: Sara Estlander

This first version of the State of the Baltic Sea report reflects the environmental situation in the Baltic Sea for the period 2011–2015[1]. The report captures a ‘moment’ in the dynamic life history of the Baltic Sea. Although there are some signs of improvement, the goals and ecological objectives of the Baltic Sea Action Plan have not yet been reached. The assessment results will support adaptive regionally-coordinated management and the further consideration of measures needed to improve the environmental status, as well as implementation of international goals and directives.

The report highlights a broad range of aspects, covering the state of the ecosystem, environmental pressures and human well-being. Some results are based on the achievements of long-term HELCOM monitoring and assessment, whereas others are presented regionally for the first time. HELCOM core indicators form the basis for the assessment. The indicators assess the status of selected elements of biodiversity and human-induced pressures on the Baltic Sea against regionally agreed threshold values, based on current knowledge and available data for the assessment. In addition, integrated assessments for biodiversity, eutrophication and contamination status are made, based on the core indicators. For marine litter, underwater noise and seabed loss and disturbance the assessment is descriptive since HELCOM core indicators are still under development. Trends over time and spatial aspects are included, as far as data are available, in order to indicate potential future developments and geographic areas of key importance for the assessed themes. Results from economic and social analyses are included for themes where information at the regional scale is available.

The results show that, although signs of improvement in the state of the Baltic Sea are seen in some cases, the Baltic Sea Action Plan goals and ecological objectives have not yet been reached (Figure ES1). One additional conclusion is that some measures already put into operation have not been in place long enough to have an effect. For measures such as reduction of nutrient loads, it will take several decades before full effects can be measured in the environment.

Figure ES1. Summary of the assessment of pressures and status for the Baltic Sea

Figure ES1. Summary of the assessment of pressures and status for the Baltic Sea, showing number of sub-basins in good/not good status, with the exception of commercial fishing, which shows the number of stocks. For seals and birds, the squares represent both coastal and open-sea areas without distinguishing between them, whereas for the other components, squares represent open-sea areas. For eutrophication and fish, coastal areas are presented as stacked bars. Note that non-indigenous species and commercial fishing have been assessed in two classes (good/not good), whereas eutrophication, hazardous substances and state components have been assessed in five categories, with two categories representing good status and three representing not good status. In both scales, an empty area indicates that the status has not been assessed quantitatively.

The assessment provides key information for taking further steps to reach good environmental status for the Baltic Sea and strengthen the implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan by 2021. The assessment may also serve as a regional baseline for implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals as well as serve purposes of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive for those countries around the Baltic Sea that are EU Member States.

By mid-2018, the report will be updated to also include data from 2016. If additional threshold values or new HELCOM core indicators are agreed during 2017, they may also be included in the 2018 update.

Introductory note

This report contains the first version of the ‘State of the Baltic Sea’ report, presenting the assessment of status, pressures and impacts on the Baltic Sea marine environment as well social and economic analyses of the use of marine waters and costs of degradation. The report has been prepared by HELCOM during 2015–2017, and covers the period 2011–2015.

The report will be further updated and consolidated and a finalized version of the report will be published in June 2018. In that process, a number of revisions and improvements are planned, including addition of new and complementary data, in particular for the year 2016, extending the assessment period to 2011–2016.

During the preparation of the report, a number of additions and improvement to the report have also been identified as desired by the Contracting Parties, HELCOM working groups, and experts, but have not been feasible to fully implement and accommodate in this first version of the report. The identified remaining issues have been specified and noted. A non-exhaustive list of additional improvements is provided in the last chapter of this report. In the updated report, HELCOM also 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, in particular in association to the upcoming HELCOM Ministerial Meeting on 6 March 2018.

HELCOM is carrying out a regional consultation of the first version of the ‘State of the Baltic Sea’ report, encouraging international 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 will be considered in parallel with the updating of the report or material thereof.

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First version of the State of the Baltic sea report – June 2017 – to be updated in 2018

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