United Nations
Strengthening the implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan to support ocean-related SDGs
by Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) (Intergovernmental organization)
The HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan is an ambitious programme to restore the good ecological status of the marine environment by 2021, adopted in HELCOM in 2007. The commitment is to strengthen the implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan, based on the ecosystem approach, to fulfil the 2030 Agenda in the Baltic Sea.

Until 2016, about 60% of the agreed joint regional actions in the Plan had been carried out, with successes in setting up a nutrient reduction scheme, curbing airborne emission and discharges from shipping, tackling some hazardous substances, piloting ecosystem approach in maritime spatial planning, and covering 11.8% of the Baltic with marine protected areas. All these examples showcase the added value of a regional approach, addressing more than one target of SDG 14 in a coherent way. Policy making based on commonly agreed principles and best available science, paired with a transparent and participatory stakeholder involvement, as well as partnerships for integrated management of human activities, are proven factors underlying these HELCOM achievements.

40 regional actions are still to be completed. Between 30 and 65 percent of the national actions of the Baltic Sea Action Plan have been accomplished by the countries.

HELCOM will continue implementation of these agreed actions that will contribute to the implementation of SDG 14. For instance, this includes:
- speeding up the implementation of the marine litter regional action plan, continuing its battle against eutrophication and planning towards the elaboration of a regional action plan on underwater noise, to fulfil SDG 14.1,
- ensuring close cooperation on any maritime spatial planning in the Baltic Sea area and management plans for all marine protected areas, to fulfil SDG 14.2 and 14.5,
- supporting sustainable agricultural practices, to contribute to SDG 2.4, and ecosystem-related fishery measures, towards SDG 14.4 and 14.6.

More generally, HELCOM will strive for more resilient marine ecosystems to be better prepared for human-induced climate change challenges. It will also promote further regional development of socio-economic analyses to create tailor-made connecting points between implementation of different SDGs.

For years, HELCOM has developed regional indicators and assessments to measure the environmental status of the Baltic Sea, which can also be used for the future regional work on the implementation of SDGs.

The adoption of the Baltic Sea Action Plan was the first bold attempt by a regional marine protection convention to implement the ecosystem approach. The protection of the marine environment in the Baltic Sea is no longer seen as an event-driven pollution reduction approach to be taken sector-by-sector. Instead, the starting point is the ecosystem itself, and a shared concept of a healthy sea with a good ecological status. This vision determines the need for further reductions in pollution loads, the extent of various human activities, as well as the conservation of marine biodiversity, and where needed and possible, the restoration, of the ecosystem of the Baltic Sea Area. The cross-sectoral plan identifies the specific actions needed to achieve agreed targets within a given timeframe for the main environmental priorities.
Progress reports
By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
Type of commitment
  • Fertilizer use efficiency
  • Other (please specify): also nutrients from sources at sea such as shiping and aquculture
  • Wastewater treatment:
  • Manure management:
  • Other (please specify): Wide range of actions according to the HELCOM Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter
  • Other (please specify): Also safety of navigation and response to pollution accidents
  • Reduce invasive aquatic species introduction:
  • Management of ship-based pollution and/or port waste management:
OTHER POLLUTANTS (please specify)
  • Other (please specify): hazardous substances and underwater noise
By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
Type of commitment
  • Marine Spatial Planning
  • Ecosystem-based Adaptation
By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics
Type of commitment
  • Ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF)
  • Other (please specify): protection of migratory fish species and river restoration
By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information
Type of commitment
  • MPA management and/or enforcement
  • Other (please specify): Establishment of ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas
Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources, as recalled in paragraph 158 of The Future We Want
Type of commitment
  • Ratification, accession and acceptance of UNCLOS, its Implementing Agreements and other relevant ocean-related instruments
  • Strengthening ocean governance, for example through the development of a national ocean policy or regional ocean policy
Strengthened implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan, based on the ecosystem approach and the commitment to achieve a Baltic Sea in good environmental status by 2021
An updated follow-up system on status of implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan
In-kind contribution
Implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan requires financial resources, both within Contracting Parties and in HELCOM. However, no estimate of the cost has been made.
Staff / Technical expertise
The process to support implementation of regional actions of the Baltic Sea Action Plan is organized within the HELCOM structure, involving national expertise and management from all Contracting Parties as well as the HELCOM Secretariat.
Basic information
Time-frame: 28 February 2017 - 2021
Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden (governments) and European Union
Ocean Basins
  • North Atlantic
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
Contact information
Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary, monika.stankiewicz@helcom.fi, 00358408402471
Helsinki, Finland
Other SDGs
United Nations