Community of practice, Ecosystem-Based Approach., Sustainable Blue Economy.

Summarising from Ecosystem-based Approach & Sustainable Blue Economy CoPs in Helsinki

The Workshop “Strengthening the ecosystem-based approach in MSP and supporting sustainable blue economy”  was held in Helsinki and remotely on June 13-15, 2023. It gathered about 50 experts from the North and Baltic Sea region and up to 100 participants followed the event online and contributed to the discussions.

Application of Ecosystem-based Approach in MSP

The workshop started by opening a broad discussion on the role of marine spatial planning in protection of marine environment and practical recommendations on application of EBA in the development of national marine spatial plans. The discussion included three major topics: MSP’s contribution to the establishing and maintaining a coherent Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the role of MSP in overall progress towards Good Environmental Status (GES) and general recommendations for strengthening international framework for ecosystem-based approach (EBA) in MSP.

Among major issues discussed at the session on MSP’s contribution to the coherent MPA’s network were increasing awareness on urgency to protect biodiversity among authorities and developing strong political will for integration, organization of interaction between authorities within MSP process and clarification of respective regulations. Participants highlighted that clear guidance at international and national level as well as reliable scientific evidence and shared data would serve as basis for stronger political will facilitating the interaction.

Considering the role of MSP in overall progress towards good environmental state of seas, participants highlighted crucial role of Strategic Environmental Assessment in integrated planning of human activities in a way that cumulative environmental pressure remains within ecosystem’s capacity limits. Quality Indicators, illustrating good environmental status in terms of MSFD descriptors, provide linkages between planning solutions and status of the marine environment and serve for the evaluation of the MSP’s impact laying basins for adaptive management.

Further overall needs for the development of the policy framework for the implementation of EBA in marine spatial planning were discussed. Experts believed that a clear guidance accounting for the experience of previous MSP cycles in both North and Baltic Sea basins is of high value for the next planning cycle. Participants mentioned the need for clear methodological guidance regarding estimation of cumulative impact, defining ecosystem’s carrying capacity and harmonization of GES indicators across borders or in the sea basin scale. In this respect the coordinating role of regional sea convention was highly valued. Regional sea convention also might play a significant role in harmonization of data collection and serve as a platform for cross-border dialog.

The role of MSP in strengthening climate change resilience was one of the key discussion points. Participants were of the view that climate change considerations should be included in all stages of planning process and considered in all planning scenarios. They pointed out that climate change brings additional uncertainty in planning scenarios which requires “extra” precaution when making planning decisions. At the same time MSP might compile and aggregate information on the sectors affected by climate change and propose solutions to mitigate the impact. Since climate change is a global process while MSP is local or regional it can be utilized as a tool to communicate the need to allocate space, including MPAs, from global perspective with local stakeholders.

Specific recommendations from the Workshop’s sessions were compiled and will be considered in the eMSP project outputs, including respective policy messages. They will also be included in the HELCOM and VASAB work on the development of Baltic Sea regional framework for the implementation of ecosystem-based approach in MSP.

Presentations from June 13-14 are here.

Nature Inclusive Design for marine installations – why and how

The workshop was led by the Blue Cluster and the day was opened with the discussion on Nature Inclusive Design (NID) for large marine infrastructures. Implementation of a Sustainable Blue Economy (SBE) coincides with installing new and fixed infrastructures at sea and ideally, these structures should be designed to create valuable nature. Consequent question how was approached in the discussions with more than 50 present and 60 remote experts from policy, NGOs, business, and scientific fields from the North and Baltic Sea regions.

Results from this and previous Community of Practice (CoP) meetings on energy and food continuously feed into our upcoming policy brief to the European Commission. How can we use Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) in the most optimised way to create a sustainable blue economy?  We believe, this should be done by multi-use. In this view, we have created the concept of a Maripark, which is envisaged as a sustainable nature inclusive business area at sea. How should this Maripark nature inclusively be designed? How can we stimulate and accelerate innovation in this scope with our SME’s?

Food for thoughts

Considering the largest global transitions in the world, like energy, nature, food and next to the challenge of Climate Change, obtaining a more qualitative biodiversity plays a crucial role. But is it possible to build new offshore infrastructures with a decent NID, contributing positively to biodiversity?

Important to carefully assess all choices. What is the difference between restorative and creative NID? For restorative design, focus lays on achieving higher quality in the natural ecosystem in the longer term. Examples are the creation of breeding places. For creative design, focus lays on obtaining a status quo or even loss, and this during the installation’s lifespan.

Prof. Steven Degraer / KBIN / “NID? Hold (y)our horses, carefully think about the best for nature, the primary goal should be to enhance nature restoration, then, the primary focus should be on functional ecosystem assets, think about stepping stones to more habitat creation, spawning grounds, nursery grounds, …”

Prior to building offshore infrastructure, most vulnerable ecosystems should be mapped. Multi-use can soften spatial and pressure on the environment, but also several restrictions: social impact (think about noise or visual pollution), technical capacity and economic feasibility should be key and equally important. Ideally, future impact of climate change is assessed. NID considers balances between restoration, maintenance and creation of protected areas or biodiversity, BEFORE design. The overall goal should be maintaining or creating the ecosystem (service). Monitoring data and data availability on biodiversity is key for entrepreneurs and the wider public.

What is or can be the role of old infrastructure at sea? What is the better option, removal or use to grow additional species? This remains a vivid discussion during our CoP.

A Maripark seems to relate most to a mini-MSP. Similar assessments should be done and evaluations are only correct when considering the sum of all impacts. In this scope, nature organisations are a valuable partner to provide data and information and should be, as well as other stakeholders, involved at the design phase.

The experts conclude that more experience is required and pilots of multi-use platforms such as Mariparks are key to convince insurance companies and reduce the risks.

Additionally, inclusion of NID in tenders can be very helpful. Focus on naturally present species is key and the ecosystem that is currently present should be supported and not overwhelmed. Climate mitigation through amongst others carbon sequestration (cultivation of algae) should be further assessed.

Timothy Vanagt / ORG / “While co-creating the princess Elisabeth energy island with nature inclusive design, the initial ambition was on species level, however, we quickly shifted to habitat creation due to a genuine involvement of excellent stakeholders and experts. Expert, policy and actual stakeholder co-designing processes are key for the actual implementation of large infrastructures.”

Consulting relevant experts, entrepreneurs and nature organisations during the design stage of those large infrastructures is required as well as informing and consulting the wider public for the decision making on design and making relevant bridges to the policy makers are wise. Visualise, co-create and co-decide.

Let us underline the importance of NID and high ecological standards for any project at sea and the sustainable blue economy. We encourage policy makers and scientists to carefully join this transition, after that, scale-up, insurance, infrastructure and safety will be safeguarded.

More communication is always key.

The Workshop “Strengthening the ecosystem-based approach in MSP and supporting sustainable blue economy”  was held in Helsinki and remotely on June 13-15, 2023.

Organised jointly by the eMSP NBSR project Ecosystem-based Approach and Sustainable Blue Economy Communities of Practice and with support of MSP4BIO project and EUSBSR Policy area Spatial Planning.

Programme is here.

Presentations from June 13-14 are here.

Prepared by Dmitry Frank-Kamenetsky, HELCOM, & Kinnie De Beule, De Blauwe Cluster VZW & Margarita Vološina, VASAB Secretariat, September 2023.