HELCOM – Looking beyond the 2020 goal

Published on October 2, 2018

During the summer, the new Finnish presidency of HELCOM publicised its priorities for the coming two years. This covers the target year 2020 for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

The latest assessment of the State of the Baltic Sea showed that for most indicators, good environmental status (GES) under the MSFD was not achieved. But the Finnish presidency does not mention intensifying efforts to achieve GES by the target year of 2020. Instead, it states as its main task updating the Baltic Sea Action Plan from 2007, with the goal of achieving GES by 2030.

Fish is one of the areas where good environmental status was not achieved, according to the latest assessment. The HELCOM Declaration of the Environmental Ministers of the Baltic Coastal countries and EU Environment Commissioner in March 2018 noted that one of the six main drivers of environmental pressure is “excessive extraction of fish”. However, fishing is not mentioned among the priorities of the Finnish government.

The Declaration of the Environmental Ministers does state that they “agree to strengthen coordination and cooperation mechanisms with fisheries bodies active in the Baltic Region…to aim to ensure coherence between marine and fisheries management measures”.

At the October Council, we will get an indication of how successful that has been. 2020 is not only the target year for achieving good environmental status under the MSFD. It is also the final year for achieving “the maximum sustainable yield exploitation rate”. In other words, stopping overfishing.