In 1992, the objective of the [Convention on the protection of the marine environment (from pollution) of the Baltic Sea, 1974] ([Helsinki Convention]) was supplemented with a requirement to preserve the ecological balance. The contracting Parties are also individually and jointly obliged to take all appropriate measures with respect to the Baltic Sea area and the coastal ecosystems influenced by the Baltic Sea to conserve natural habitats and biodiversity and to protect ecological processes. These measures are to be taken so as to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources within the Baltic Sea Area. It is recommended that the Parties should aim to adopt subsequent instruments containing appropriate guidelines and criteria. By December 1997, 63 protected areas had been established under the Convention. However, many of these areas have not been officially recognized by the countries concerned.
The objectives of the [Geneva Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance] (SPAs) are the preservation of: representative types of coastal and marine ecosystems of adequate size in order to ensure their long-term viability and to maintain their biodiversity; habitats which are in danger of disappearing in their natural area of distribution in the Mediterranean or which have a reduced natural area of distribution; habitats critical to the survival, reproduction and recovery of endangered, threatened or endemic species of flora and fauna; sites of particular importance because of their scientific, aesthetic, cultural or educational interest. Sites to be included in the list of specially protected areas should: be of importance for conserving the components of biological diversity in the Mediterranean; contain ecosystems specific to the Mediterranean area or the habitats of endangered species; be of special interest at the scientific, aesthetic, cultural or educational levels. The more recent [Barcelona Protocol] extends the obligations under the [Geneva Protocol]. Article 16 states that Parties shall adopt: (1) common criteria for the choice of protected marine and coastal areas that could be included in the list of specially protected areas of Mediterranean importance; and (2) common criteria for the inclusion of additional species; guidelines for the establishment and management of SPAs. Also, a new list is to be drawn up of SPAs that: (1) are of importance for conserving the components of biological diversity in the Mediterranean; (2) contain ecosystems specific to the Mediterranean area of the habitats of endangered species; (3) are of special scientific, aesthetic, cultural or educational interest. The Parties are obliged to report on measures taken to implement the Convention and its related Protocols. The Secretariat is formed by the UNEP/Coordinating Unit for the [Mediterranean Action Plan] in Athens. By March 1998, 216 SPAs had been established under the [Geneva Protocol]. Also action plans for the conservation of marine turtles, monk seals and cetaceans have been approved by the Parties.