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HELCOM HABITAT Meeting to focus on strengthening the network of marine protected areas

Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) For immediate release Helsinki, 16 May (HELCOM) – The HELCOM Nature Protection and Biodiversity Group (HELCOM HABITAT) will convene its regular meeting on 15-19 May on the German Isle of Vilm to discuss ways to halt the decline in biodiversity and habitat destruction and to protect the endangered species. One of the central topics at the meeting will be the amendment of the network of the Baltic Sea protected areas with an aim to enhance and strengthen it. Currently the network comprises of approximately 90 sites protecting species, habitats, important ecological processes and geological formations. New sites will be nominated and gaps in the ecological coherence will be analysed for further completion of the network. The Meeting will consider a priority list of threatened and declining species and habitats in the Baltic Sea which need special attention. The proposal for this priority list has been made by an expert group with Germany as the Lead Country. This list will be used in planning special protection measures. Conservation of seals living in the Baltic Sea is also expected to be an important issue at the Meeting. Experts will look into a new concept for the protection of the Baltic seals which will take into account the new approaches in wildlife management and the differences in the trends and the status of seal populations. The HELCOM HABITAT Group is also planning to elaborate guidelines on ballast water management in order to minimise the introduction of non-indigenous species by maritime transport. The Meeting will be chaired by Jan Ekebom from Finland. Note to Editors: The Helsinki Commission, or HELCOM, works to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution through intergovernmental co-operation between the countries bordering the sea - Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and also the European Community. HELCOM is the governing body of the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area," more usually known as the Helsinki Convention. For more information, please contact: Mr Juha-Markku Leppänen Professional Secretary HELCOM Tel: +358 9 62202227 Fax: +358 9 6220 2239 E-mail: juha-markku.leppanen@helcom.fi Mr Nikolay Vlasov Information Secretary HELCOM Tel.: + 358 (0)207 412 635 Fax: +358 (0)207 412 639 E-mail: nikolay.vlasov@helcom.fi Med vänlig hälsning Anneli Nivrén, presschef Naturvårdsverket Swedish Environmental Protection Agency Tfn. 08-698 13 12, 070-206 37 27 anneli.nivren@naturvardsverket.se

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