Skip to main content
News article20 October 2021Directorate-General for Environment3 min read

Marine protection: EU signs up to updated regional action plan for a clean and healthy Baltic Sea

At a ministerial meeting held today in Lübeck, Germany, the contracting parties of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (HELCOM) adopted an Action Plan for a cleaner and healthier Baltic Sea. The EU, as a contracting party to HELCOM, has supported and contributed to the development of the Action Plan as it will support EU Member States in the region to achieve their environmental obligations under EU law, thereby contributing to cleaner, healthier and more productive seas. In particular, it provides clear tools and direction to effectively and concretely achieve the joint commitments taken by Ministers of Fisheries, Agriculture and Environment one year ago by the EU Baltic Sea Member States at the Our Baltic conference.

The Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius representing the European Union, said:

The Baltic Sea and its coasts face many challenges, such as eutrophication, marine pollution, depletion of fish stocks and climate change effects. HELCOM is an excellent example of ocean governance at regional level. It has historically played a pioneering role to achieve a clean and healthy Baltic Sea. The adoption of this updated action plan is a key step towards delivering on our common vision for a clean and healthy Baltic Sea and boosts existing efforts to bring the Baltic to good environmental status.

The Baltic Sea faces numerous challenges, as it is closed Sea surrounded by a large population and several human activities leading to pressures on the marine environment. This include excess nutrients, contamination, marine litter, excessive extraction of fish, underwater noise, invasive alien species, and physical disturbance of the seabed. The updated Baltic Sea Action Plan adopted today contains more than 200 measures aimed at achieving ‘good environmental condition’ for marine biodiversity, hazardous substances and litter, and sea-based activities, provides a roadmap for HELCOM’s work, and aims to achieve good environmental status of the Baltic Sea by 2030. It builds on the unaddressed challenges identified at the previous Ministerial meeting held in 2018 in Brussels, chaired by the EU. It will help EU Member States protect their marine waters and achieve environmental commitments under the European Green Deal including the EU Biodiversity Strategy, the Zero Pollution Action Plan, as well as the Farm to Fork strategy.


HELCOM is the governing body of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area, known as the Helsinki Convention. It was created in 1974 and was the first convention ever to address all sources of pollution of an entire sea. HELCOM has ten Contracting Parties, comprising of eight EU Member States, the EU and Russia. Regional cooperation for the protection of the marine environment is a key element of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the EU’s main tool for marine environmental protection. It looks at all pressures on the seas and ocean and brings them together under one umbrella to tackle the cumulative impacts of human activities in one strategic framework. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive requires EU Member States to set up marine strategies in respect of the marine region of the Member States’ marine waters to achieve “Good Environmental Status”. This translates itself into extensive cooperation on a number of issues like biodiversity, eutrophication, contaminants, litter and underwater noise with the Regional Sea Conventions, such as HELCOM. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive must be reviewed by mid-2023 and where necessary, amendments will be proposed.  A public consultation is ongoing until tomorrow, 21 October 2021.

On 12 October 2021, the Council of the European Union reached an agreement on 2022 fishing opportunities in the Baltic for several stocks with substantial reductions, following scientific advice.

For more information

Europe's oceans, seas and coasts

Review of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive


BSAP update 2021 – HELCOM

Our Baltic Conference

Baltic Sea: Agreement reached on 2022 fishing opportunities (


Publication date
20 October 2021
Directorate-General for Environment

EU Environment newsletter

Green landscape with person on bike, tree and buildings in the distance.

EU Environment newsletters deliver the latest updates about the European Commission’s environmental priorities straight to your inbox.