The protection of the Baltic Sea is important to the cities of Helsinki and Turku. This is why already in 2007 we started the Baltic Sea Challenge. We have invited other organisations to voluntarily protect the Baltic Sea beyond the legislation’s provisions. By 2018, 270 organisations from Finland and other Baltic Sea countries have joined the Baltic Sea Challenge network.  The third joint Baltic Sea Action Plan of our cities for the years 2019–2023 has now been completed.

For more than a decade, we have implemented dozens of tangible actions in order to reduce the environmental loads from the cities of Helsinki and Turku to waters. Our Baltic Sea Challenge partners have taken hundreds of measures for the benefit of the nearby waters and the entire Baltic Sea. We have implemented several international projects to develop our activities and arranged numerous events and meetings for exchanging best practices and experiences. We continue to support the Helsinki-based professorship in the Economics of Baltic Sea Protection and the operation of the Protection Fund for the Archipelago Sea in Turku. We have noticed that such strategic partnerships can accomplish influence and tangible results outside of our own immediate sphere of activity.

Systematic water protection work has accomplished much in the Baltic Sea: for example, the eutrophicating nutrition load has been halved and the populations of a few key species, such as the white-tailed eagle, have strengthened. Despite this, the entire sea and our coastal waters continue to be in an all-too-poor state. According to an extensive report published this spring by the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, HELCOM, eutrophication continues to be a severe problem in almost all of the Baltic Sea, including the coastal regions of the Gulf of Finland and the Archipelago Sea. In addition, numerous harmful chemicals and microplastics can be found at alarming levels in the aquatic environments. For these reasons, many ecosystems and habitats of the Baltic Sea are threatened. The recreational value of the coastal regions of the cities along the Gulf of Finland, the Archipelago Sea and the entire Baltic Sea is very high. This is a further reason why protecting the sea is to the benefit of everyone living at the coasts of the Baltic Sea.

The most recent information concerning the impact of climate change on the Baltic Sea and its surrounding countries is alarming. The climate in the Baltic Sea region changes at an accelerating pace, and foreshadows the situation that, in many other marine areas of the world, will not be realised until decades later. For example, owing to the increased precipitation during warmer winters, the nutrient leaching and discharges from diffuse pollution will increase, the risk for oxygen depletion will grow and we may also lose the unique ice winter of the Baltic Sea. Climate change mitigation also entails protecting the Baltic Sea and preventing eutrophication.

Several international initiatives have been taken in recent years for the benefit of the seas. One of the seventeen global sustainable development goals of the United Nations is the preservation of life below water and natural resources in seas, and the period 2021–2030 has been designated as the Decade of Ocean Science of the UN. The operating methods and targets of the EU’s Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region have become more precise, and Finland has also prepared its Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. A decision has been made to update the model of our action plan, the Baltic Sea Action Plan of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, by 2021. With the already closer collaboration, we encourage HELCOM to take into account proposals from our action plan in the update.

Cities can work as pioneers in marine protection by developing their own activities and partnerships with ambition. Collaboration between all departments of the cities and with important interest groups, such as businesses, civil society and non-governmental organisations, educational institutes, research institutes and residents, is important. We make use of synergies, for example between curbing climate change and our circular economy commitments, with our water protection goals. Helsinki's new maritime strategy contributes to this Baltic Sea Action Plan. In the third Baltic Sea Action Plan, we will also launch completely new measures for the benefit of our sea. These involve, for example, using biocoal, structural liming and gypsum to bind nutrients; and the restoration of marine life, developing procurement and traffic. In addition, we launch new types of collaboration with businesses and engage the residents of our cities to be more active. We also invite new organisations to join the network and all members in the network of the Baltic Sea Challenge to renew their action plans and commitments for the period 2019–2023.

October 2018


Jan Vapaavuori                                                                                     Minna Arve

Mayor, Helsinki                                                                                     Mayor, Turku