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Guideline for the implementation of the EcAp in MSP in the Baltic Sea area


The HELCOM-VASAB MSP Working Group agreed on a set of guidelines for the implementation of the ecosystem-approach in MSP in the Baltic Sea.

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
Type of practice:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:

Questions this practice may help answer

  • What principles have to be taken into account when applying the ecosystem-based approach in MSP?

Implementation context

The Regional Baltic Maritime Spatial Planning Roadmap 2013-2020, which was adopted by the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in 2013 and confirmed by the VASAB Ministerial Conference in 2014, calls for the development of guidelines on the application of ecosystem approach in transnationally coherent MSP to be implemented by 2018. The HELCOM-VASAB Working Group agreed on such guidelines in 2016.

Aspects / Objectives

In the guidelines, relevant policy documents are reviewed.

As a key part, the following key elements to be considered when applying the ecosystem based approach are elaborated on:

  • Best available knowledge
  • Precaution
  • Alternative development in order to prevent negative impacts
  • Identification of ecosystem services
  • Mitigation measures in order to prevent, reduce and as fully as possible offset any significant adverse effects on the environment
  • Relational understanding of effects of human activities on the ecosystem
  • Participation and communication of stakeholders
  • Subsidiarity of implementation and coherence between different implementation levels
  • Adaptation of the approach through  monitoring, reviewing and evaluation

Furthermore, it is emphasised that a Maritime Spatial Plan based on the ecosystem-based approach requires a vision on the use of the maritime area in question, which must incorporate both environmental factors and human uses. Generally, environmental, social and economic considerations need to to enter the analysis.

The Strategic Environmental Assessment is identified as an important tool for implementing the ecosystem-based approach in maritime spatial planning as it identifies, describes and assesses the likely significant effects on the ecosystem.

Apart from that the implementation of the ecosystem based approach in relation to the timing of the planning procedure provides guidance on the timing of the implementation.


They represent non-binding guidance for implementing the ecosystem-based approach in the context of maritime spatial planning (MSP) in the Baltic Sea and should be considered a first step towards a common understanding on how the ecosystem-based approach can be applied in drawing up a spatial plan for a sea area in accordance with spatial planning legislation in force in the Baltic Sea countries. The document will be tested in practice and, subsequently, amended as may be needed according to experiences gathered.


The guidelines can inform the process of agreeing on principles for transboundary cooperation and consultation in other sea basins.

Contact Person

Anita Mäkinnen

Co-chair of the HELCOM-VASAB MSP Working Group

Finnish Transport Safety Agency

Email: (anita[dot]makinen[at]trafi[dot]fi)

Phone: +358 401624592


Andrzej Cieslak

Co-chair of the HELCOM-VASAB MSP Working Group

Maritime Office in Gdynia

Email: (cieslak[at]umgdy[dot]gov[dot]pl)

Phone: +48 583553435

Responsible Entity