Sensible planning can result in sustainable growth in and around the Gulf of Bothnia

Sustainable growth can only be achieved if the use of marine areas is planned sensibly, bringing about synergies where different activities benefit each other. This is the key idea behind a new research project to support growth in the maritime sector in and around the Gulf of Bothnia.

The Gulf of Bothnia is an important resource for fish farming and wind power, among other things. It is also sensitive to climate change, which will affect many aspects from ice cover in the winters to the vitality of fish populations. The rapidly growing marine industries and the consequences of climate change may lead to conflicts between different factors, which could damage the marine ecosystem in the Gulf of Bothnia.

"We will endeavour to identify the risks together and find solutions for a sustainable use of the sea. We plan to calculate how the maritime area in the Gulf of Bothnia has changed from 1961 onwards using data from SMHI, and how this change is likely to continue until the year 2060," says Kari Eilola, researcher at SMHI (the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute).

Assessment of future changes

In this study, an assessment will be made of how the Gulf of Bothnia will change over the next few decades, the consequences of climate change and how natural resources on the seabed can be used in a sustainable way. The project will also identify the risks of industrial activities for the marine ecosystem and develop new methods of fish farming. An important part of the study is to identify the practical and administrative obstacles to blue growth, i.e. the expansion of industrial maritime activities.

The work is taking place within the Smart Sea project. The study is also looking at whether the stress put on the marine environment by human activities can be reduced by concentrating fish farming and wind power in the same areas, for example.

Planning tool for the area

The project is producing a planning tool for the maritime area. The tool will enable an assessment of the risks associated with coastal construction, conservation areas and offshore-facilities in the maritime area, to give some examples. The basic idea is that sustainable growth can only be achieved if the use of maritime areas is planned sensibly. At the same time, synergies between the different facilities can be increased.

Cooperation between Finland and Sweden

The Smart Sea project will take place over a six-year period at a cost of almost 8 million euros. The Council for Strategic Research at the Academy of Finland is financing the project. It involves almost 40 researchers from eight different institutions: The Finnish Meteorological Institute, FMI; the Finnish Environment Institute, SYKE; the Natural Resources Institute Finland; the Geological Survey of Finland; the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd; the University of Helsinki and Turku; and the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, SMHI.