HELCOM - 35 years of protecting the Baltic Sea

Nikolay Vlasov
HELCOM Information Secretary


The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, more usually referred to as the Helsinki Commission or HELCOM, is an international organization of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Community, working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure the safety of navigation. 

HELCOM is the governing body of the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area" (Helsinki Convention), which was signed by all the coastal countries in 1974, and updated in 1992. It is the first international agreement ever to cover all sources of pollution, whether from land, sea or air. The Helsinki Convention covers not only the sea, but also the surrounding drainage area, which compromises more than 1.7 million sq km.

The main tasks of HELCOM are to provide timely information about the environmental trends and the state of the marine ecosystem and to develop common objectives and actions, which the governments of the coastal countries must implement through their national environmental programmes and legislation.

For the past 35 years, HELCOM has served as the main environmental policy-maker for the Baltic Sea area. HELCOM efforts to reduce pollution and repair the damage to the marine environment have led to noticeable improvements in many areas.

In 2007, the HELCOM countries adopted an overarching Baltic Sea Action Plan to radically reduce pollution to the sea and restore its good ecological status by 2021. The plan is a first ever attempt by a regional seas commission to incorporate the ecosystem-based approach into the protection of the marine environment. It has already been heralded as a pioneer scheme for European seas.

Keyword: Baltic Sea, Commission, Convention, HELCOM, Helsinki, plan