36 Months On: Progress review from the Estonia, Baltic Sea case study

Read on for an update on how GAP2’s Estonian case study has been progressing in the Baltic Sea over the last twelve months. 

The Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) in the Baltic Sea is dealing with a very complex situation involving the competing interests of industrial and small-scale commercial fishers, recreational fishers and other stakeholders. We are therefore working in the temporal and spatial allocation of these different activities (including regulations for the use of gear, target species or conflictive boats like jet-skis).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Beyond this, conservation concerns must be taken into account. All stakeholders truly agree on the necessity of the MSP and many of them have been interested in getting as much as they can for their own activity in the negotiations. Because of this, we believe that only a good enforcement of the law will allow a real compliance of the MSP.

The GAP2 Project’s Baltic Sea Case Study is actively contributing to the actual Pärnu County’s marine areas (Gulf of Riga, Baltic Sea) related MSP process by organizing the Mutual Learning Events involving fishers, environmental NGOs, fisheries managers and the County Government representatives. Mutual Learning methodology developed and used by GAP2 Project is building on the concept of transdisciplinarity to support processes of Mutual Learning and problem solving between science and society.

The Mutual Learning carried out in the course of implementating the GAP2 Project’s Baltic Sea Case Study is building on a straightforward “step-by-step approach toward collaboration” based on understanding the other side’s thinking, focusing on shared interests, looking for solutions to common problems, and technically supported by the Participatory GIS based Mutual Learning methodology. In total 9 MSP stakeholder meetings and the associated Mutual Learning events was carried out by the Pärnu County Government in close cooperation with the GAP2 Project in 2012-2013.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

First of all, it was recognized that the fisheries basic interests are in good harmony with existing high level political commitments. For example, in the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan it is recommended that all fisheries management should be developed and implemented based on the Ecosystem Approach in order to enhance the balance between sustainable use and protection of marine natural resources. It was agreed that the Pärnu County’s fisheries should develop the image of environmentally friendly fisheries. Possible most general shared visionary and conceptual definition of the “Pärnu Bay as a cradle of marine life including fish” was proposed and discussed with aim to be used as an argument in the following MSP related stakeholder’s interest based negotiations. Fisheries interest in protecting the fish spawning grounds was confirmed and the concern was expressed that protecting the fish spawning grounds is far not enough. The fish larvae and the following young fish life stages should also be protected e.g. against the possible increased mortality because of jetting in the Pärnu Bay. The possible options for temporal and spatial restrictions for jetting were proposed and discussed.

The issue of allocating the sea space for the possible aquaculture/mariculture future developments in the Pärnu County’s sea area was discussed. Also no active current business interest in that respect was recognized the lively argumentation was started to explore the future possibilities not only for fish farming but also for mussel farming with aim to clean the water and to produce the mussel biomass for feed production in line with the EU Blue Growth aspirations.

One of the most original ideas was to establish the Kihnu Island’s cultural-environmental National Park with aim not only to protect the sensitive nature and fish spawning grounds of this sea area but also to preserve the unique coastal culture and history of inhabitants.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Results of integrating fisheries into the actual Pärnu County marine area MSP process in Estonia have been presented and discussed at the BS RAC Executive Committee Meeting in Copenhagen on 4 July 2013. The focus was made on the potential of creation of a joint commitment by the fisheries and environmental NGOs towards the protection of the Baltic Sea Essential Fish Habitats also at the BS RAC level.

Five scientific papers were presented at the ICES Annual Science Conferences in 2011 – 2013 to communicate the results of the GAP2 Project’s Baltic Sea Case Study. The Case Study results  have been presented also at the World Fisheries Congress in 2012. In 2013 the Case Study results have been communicated at the HELCOM “Fishing for Space” workshop in Vilnius (Lithuania). In 2014 the outcome of the GAP2 Project’s Baltic Sea Case Study was presented at 1) KIMO Baltic – The Living Coast Project Meeting in Gdynia (Poland), 2) AQUAFIM&AQUABEST Project’s Final Conference in Marienhamn (Finland), 3) V International Forum “Ecology” in St. Petersburg (Russia), and 4) XV International Environmental Forum “Baltic Sea Day”, Roundtable on “Maritime Spatial Planning” in St. Petersburg (Russia).

We are planning to present the results of the GAP2 Project’s Baltic Sea Case Study at the HELCOM VASAB (Vision and Strategies Around the Baltic Sea) Baltic Maritime Spatial Planning Forum in June 2014 in Riga (Latvia) and at the ICES Annual Science Conference in September 2014 in A Coruña (Spain). We are planning to publish 2 papers, one based on the local results of our case study and other with a broader objective, probably based on the Mutual Learning events of all the GAP2 case studies.

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