• 2015 October 30 15:46

    New database open for HELCOM protected areas in the Baltic Sea

    Easier access to more detailed information on coastal and marine Baltic Sea protected areas (HELCOM MPAs) will be available for anyone by today’s launch of the modernized HELCOM MPA database. As there are currently already 174 HELCOM MPAs covering 12% of the marine area, making the Baltic Sea a pioneering region, a more sophisticated search function as well as map interface are important improvements to the database. New data sections have also been added: information on human pressures to MPAs, such as damage to seabed or input of sound, and regulated human activities, such as aquaculture, tourism or urban developments, HELCOM said Friday in its press release.

    Information details added in the database concern threat categories and monitoring of species, biotopes and biotope complexes within HELCOM MPAs. Another practical feature is direct links which have been added for each MPA to other relevant databases such as Natura 2000, OSPAR, Important Bird Areas (Birdlife), World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) and Ramsar.

    The HELCOM MPA database is among the first ones where information on several management plans can be displayed for one MPA, which fits a clear need as many of these MPAs have several management plans established for different purposes. Another new feature in the database is information about national protection status, which is important for understanding the different legal aspects provided by overlapping national protection networks. Moreover, HELCOM MPA database stands out among other similar databases on regional and global levels, particularly since the information is current and has a vast coverage.   

    HELCOMs persistent work on coastal and marine Baltic Sea protected areas will now continue as the assessment of ecological coherence of MPAs is expecting release early next year. The assessment of ecological coherence is made possible through the information compiled in the MPA database.

    The area of HELCOM marine protected areas has increased threefold since 2004 and now, at 12% of the Baltic marine area, exceeds the target of 10% spatial coverage set by the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Baltic Sea was one of the first regional seas in the world to reach this target. The next goal is to reach 10% protection in each sub-basin of the Baltic Sea.

    The aim of the coastal and marine Baltic Sea protected areas (HELCOM MPAs) is to protect valuable marine and coastal habitats in the Baltic Sea. This is done by designating sites with particular nature values as protected areas, and by managing human activities within those areas. Each site will have its unique management plan.

    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 working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. Since 1974, HELCOM has been the governing body of the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’, more commonly known as the Helsinki Convention.


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