The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, SwAM, is taking a leading role in developing and coordinating the marine spatial plans for the Baltic Sea. The 2 million euro project “Baltic SCOPE” became a reality after the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE) gave the green light.
“We are very glad that the EU Commission has said ‘yes’ to this project,” says Björn Risinger, director general of SwAM. “Sweden borders the most countries in the Baltic Sea, so it is especially important for us to reach maximum consensus in the marine spatial planning process.
“An increase in collaboration and coordination is important for all countries in order to avoid conflicts of interest at sea.”
Last summer, the EU introduced the Directive for Maritime Spatial Planning which, by 2016, is to be incorporated into all member states’ national legislation. The deadline for developing marine spatial plans is 2021.
The idea is for each EU country to freely plan how various marine-based activities such as shipping, fishing, offshore wind farming, and protected areas could possibly co-exist or need to be separated in different parts of the marine areas. But the planning of the common sea areas is to be a coordinated effort.
The majority of countries in the Baltic Sea region have begun their efforts in developing marine spatial plans. In Sweden, the authority charged with establishing proposals for the country’s plans is the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management.
“The EU Commission announced last summer the availability of funds toward projects that can contribute to increased coordination between governments, and for finding methods for collaboration and evaluation.
But the purpose is not to create a marine plan for the Baltic Sea; it’s more about seeing how all of the different puzzle pieces can fit together in the best possible way,” says Thomas Johansson, head of marine spatial planning and maritime affairs at SwAM.
SwAM has therefore, together with government agencies in Denmark, Germany, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland, developed a proposal for a two-year project called “Baltic SCOPE.”
Even representatives for the regional organizations HELCOM (Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission), VASAB (Vision and Strategies around the Baltic Sea), and Nordregio (Nordic Centre for Spatial Development) are involved in the project. Other government authorities in every country will also participate in various efforts.
The Baltic Sea is one of the world’s most trafficked and utilized marine areas; simultaneously, it’s home to a unique ecosystem which is threatened by such problems as eutrophication and oxygen deprivation,” explains Johansson. “A number of studies and projects have already been done in the area and we want to take advantage of this existing knowledge and experience.”
The project is comprised of two case studies that build upon marine spatial planning processes that have already begun.
The first encompasses the Baltic Sea’s southwest area which affects Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and Poland. This region is home to many planning areas including the Fehmarn Belt between Germany and Denmark, the Øresund strait between mainland Sweden and Denmark’s most populated island, and offshore bank Kriegers Flak which divides itself among three exclusive economic zones (EEZ).
The other case study comprises the marine area between Estonia, Latvia, and Sweden.
Both case studies will focus on how shipping traffic, wind farming, fishing, and nature conservation function in these areas and how they can compromise.
In total, the project is expected to cost just over 2 million euros, 80 percent of which is to be financed by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). The rest of the money will come from the project’s participants.
“The project really answers to the call in terms of bringing all the partners of the sea basin together, implementing the directive, and involving the right and competent authorities which is exactly what we wanted to do. We are very thankful to SwAM for taking the lead in this project and getting the right people together,” says Sylvain Gambert, policy officer at DG MARE European Commission.
“We want the project to deliver something concrete for all the member states involved, real marine spatial plans and real coordination. We also wish that whatever mechanisms, coordination structure, or climate developed through this project will have a long-lasting impact on the Baltic Sea.”
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