1 April, 2021 Like many of the world’s seas, the Baltic Sea is multi-functional and extremely busy. Sectors including fisheries, shipping and renewable energy compete for the 404,354 km² of sea space with nature and communities. Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) is a tool that can help mediate challenges by allocating space and resources in the most appropriate way to minimize conflicts and find synergies between different uses of the sea while conserving nature. However, only one-third of the Baltic Sea countries have submitted their MSP in line with the EU Directive deadline.
Of the 22 coastal Member States in the EU, of which 8 are Baltic Sea countries, only six have met the EU’s 31st of March deadline to submit their plans for the sustainable use and conservation of their seas – and those six plans are extremely patchy.
“The Baltic Region through the regional seas’ convention HELCOM has been at the forefront of developing principles for Maritime Spatial Plans and a Roadmap for transboundary pan-Baltic cooperation on MSP, yet only Denmark, Finland, and Latvia have adopted their MSPs in time to meet the EU deadline, the rest are still working on their MSP or revising previous versions,” Valerie de Liedekerke, Programme Manager, WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme.
Russia is the only non-EU Member of the nine Baltic Sea States and therefore not obliged by the same deadline under the EU MSP Directive. The Russian MSP Roadmap will be developed until the end of 2021 and is a separate document from the Regional Baltic MSP Roadmap 2021-2030. The Russian national document covers not only the Baltic sea, but all 13 Russian seas and all coastal regions.
The Baltic sea is facing incredible challenges due to the growth of maritime economic sectors and agriculture, increased climate change and the degradation of ecosystems as a result of unsustainable human activities. WWF advocates for ecosystem-based MSP to deliver a much needed change towards a sustainable relationship with our seas and marine resources. Conversely, a poor MSP process will only further aggravate the already dire situation faced by marine ecosystems, putting these resources and essential services at greater risk. The Baltic Ecoregion Programme (BEP) has been working in the Baltic region to bring together all relevant sectors to share a common vision for sustainable management of the marine environment.
It is crucial that these plans meet the MSP Directive’s key requirements, such as being consistent and cross-border, and based on an ecosystem-based approach, promoting coexistence of activities and uses, contributing to the preservation, protection and improvement of the environment, and supporting the sustainable development of maritime sectors. All coastal EU Member States must give due consideration to how their plans will help meet key policy targets, such as achieving Good Environmental Status in all EU waters (a target whose deadline has already passed) and protecting at least 30% of EU seas by 2030, including 10% strictly protected, as set out in the EU Biodiversity Strategy.
Unless the EU embraces a sustainable, strategic and forward-looking vision for our relationship with the ocean, and commits to implementing it, we will lose the vital ecosystem services humans rely on. The European Commission and Member States must urgently deliver on their commitments to healthier seas.
The Commission has until 31 March 2022 to deliver a report to the European Parliament and the Council assessing the progress made in implementing the MSP Directive. WWF calls upon the European Commission to react accordingly when Member States are found to be failing on their MSP requirements and in meeting set targets. To help guide this process, WWF has published a paper reinforcing the basis of an ecosystem-based approach to MSP, offering a set of precise indicators for successful ecosystem-based MSP in all European waters.
Notes to editors:
* Maritime Spatial Planning is defined as “a public process of analyzing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, social, and economic objectives that are usually specified through a political process”.
It is important to note that MSP is not only meant to capture how space is allocated to various at-sea activities, but also to deliver on a strategic and transformative vision of what, when, where and how the activities occur sustainably.
For more on MSP download a 2021 report WWF Maritime Spatial Planning in Europe
WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme – is an ambitious and highly influential force working to conserve and restore the health of the Baltic Sea. The programme is comprised of WWF and NGO partners in each of the nine coastal Baltic Sea countries. Representing the region’s largest membership network, the programme’s approach has been to work with public and private sector partners toward ensuring a healthy, productive Baltic Sea through sustainable, ecosystem-based management. More info at: https://www.wwfbaltic.org/