Preparing to define the Baltic Sea’s significant marine areas
At the United Nations Ocean Conference in June 2017, HELCOM members registered a voluntary commitment to identify Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSA) in the Baltic Sea. The EBSA process will take a significant step further at a workshop in Helsinki next week, HELCOM said in its press release.
The workshop is being convened by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, with financial support from the Governments of Finland and Sweden, and in collaboration with HELCOM. HELCOM's contribution is supported by the HASPS 2 project, which aims to further objectives of the Horizontal Action "Spatial Planning" of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.
EBSAs are special areas in world's oceans that serve important purposes, in one way or another, to support the healthy functioning of oceans and the many services that they provide. The purpose of the EBSA process is to globally identify these important marine areas using the established scientific criteria adopted by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in all the world's oceans:
Uniqueness or Rarity
Special importance for life history stages of species
Importance for threatened, endangered or declining species and/or habitats
Vulnerability, Fragility, Sensitivity, or Slow recovery
In the Baltic Sea Region, the EBSA process is expected to provide further useful information of relevance to national and transboundary Maritime Spatial Planning in the Baltic Sea. Other HELCOM processes such as the Red List, evaluation of effectiveness and coherence of Marine Protected Area networks, and future HELCOM environmental assessments may also be able to benefit from EBSAs.
The workshop is of a scientific and technical nature. The description of EBSAs will draw on specific scientific criteria for identifying important marine areas. Countries in the region, relevant organizations and indigenous peoples and local communities have been invited to provide relevant information, including scientific data and traditional knowledge on marine ecosystems, habitats and species, as well as physical, oceanographic, and geological characteristics.
The Duke University Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab act as the technical team of the workshop, identifying and mapping datasets and analyses for consideration by the workshop. In addition to national datasets, the Baltic Sea countries have agreed to make relevant HELCOM datasets available to the workshop.
Thirteen regional EBSA workshops have been arranged worldwide to date. Countries in the region in question, as well as relevant global and regional organizations/initiatives, are invited to nominate experts for the workshop. The nominated experts then go through a selection process under CBD to ensure scientific and technical expertise, knowledge on EBSAs, and gender balance in the workshop. The workshop will produce a regional workshop report on areas meeting EBSA criteria, for consideration by the CBD's Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice.
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.