The GAP2 Project’s Baltic Sea Case Study has been actively contributing to Pärnu County’s Marine Spatial Planning process, most recently by organising a Mutual Learning Event with fishers, environmental NGOs, fisheries managers and County Government representatives. By encouraging mutual learning, GAP2 is building on the concept of transdisciplinarity for supporting problem solving between science and society.
The meeting was held by Pärnu County Government at Saulepa Civic Centre close to Pärnu. Attended by fishers and representatives of fishers, local communities, the local administrations and the Estonian Ministry of Interior, the meeting provided a forum for discussions as to how the MSP process will affect fishing activities.
After being opened by the Head of Development and Planning Department (Pärnu County Government), Mr Heiki Mägi, and following the introductions, several MSP related presentations were given by Ms Tiiu Pärn (Pärnu County Government), Mr Kuido Kartau (Hendrikson & Ko) and Dr Markus Vetemaa (Estonian Marine Institute, University of Tartu). Dr Robert Aps, then talked about the GAP2 project, its aims and underlying concepts and the Mutual Learning methodology. The presentations had provided the background to MSP and the work and relevance of GAP2 leaving the floor open for the stakeholders to express their views, concerns and interests.
The discussions were followed by three workshops discussing MSP visions and the interests of the local fisheries. One of the most original ideas was to establish Kihnu Island National Park, not only to protect the sensitive nature and fish spawning grounds, but also to preserve the unique coastal culture and history of its inhabitants. This idea however was met with concerns that establishing a National Park may lead to too stringent constraints for local fishers. The same concerns that, the idea has not been sufficiently supported up to now.
All the representatives however recognised and reiterated the importance of Pärnu Bay “as a cradle of marine life including fish.” The fisher’s had extensive knowledge about habitats occupied by fish, which waters and substrate are necessary for fish to spawn, breed, feed, or grow to maturity. By sharing this knowledge it was possible to note areas on a Pärnu County sea area map for further analysis and inclusion into the MSP. The exchange of stakeholder’s knowledge was a real manifestation of mutual learning and has greatly aided the process.