Earlier in May, the joint HELCOM and VASAB Maritime Spatial Working Group met in Helsinki at the Ministry of the Environment of Finland to advance the agenda on maritime spatial planning (MSP) in the Baltic Sea region.
The major themes addressed were strengthening the ecosystem-based approach in MSP, evaluating the progress of the regional MSP roadmap by 2020, and coordinating regional policy in MSP in a wider context of maritime policies.
Maritime spatial planning (MSP) seeks to optimize the use of the sea, addressing both the ecosystem and maritime activities such as shipping and fishing, and taking into account the needs of all Baltic Sea stakeholders.
During the meeting, the group acknowledged that "MSP is a powerful tool assuring sustainable exploitation of marine resources." It also agreed to contribute to the update of the Baltic Sea Action plan (BSAP), as stated in the outcome document of the meeting.
Participants recognized the significant progress in MSP achieved in the region. All countries signatories to the Helsinki Convention currently have maritime spatial plans in place, with some already revising their first generation schemes. Unlike terrestrial plans that have been around for quite a while, maritime plans are still a novelty worldwide.
In the Baltic Sea region, national maritime spatial plans are elaborated in an open and transparent way. They are subject to regular international consultations based on guidelines developed by HELCOM-VASAB MSP group and the Espoo Convention.
To strengthen this process even further and assure compatibility of spatial plans at the regional level, the group agreed during the meeting to elaborate guidelines for international consultations on MSP data output.
Another key item on the meeting's agenda was the ecosystem approach in maritime spatial planning, integrating all aspects of the marine ecosystem into MSP.
The group is currently advancing the concept of green infrastructure and blue corridors which integrates valuable components of the marine ecosystem into the planning such as fish spawning areas, migration routes, benthic biotopes and coastal zones.
The aim is to foster sustainable use of marine resources and to protect the marine ecosystem, as well as to strengthen the connectivity between and coherence of marine protected areas (MPAs).
This work will be done in close cooperation with representatives of fisheries and environmental authorities. The cooperation will follow a timetable and work plan to be elaborated by the HELCOM VASAB MSP group, to better coordinate regional activities and to elaborate a regional tool for practical use of the green infrastructure concept in MSP.
Furthermore, the group agreed to update the HELCOM recommendation on coastal zones management, in particular to strengthening its linkage with maritime spatial planning.
The 16th Meeting of the joint HELCOM-VASAB Maritime Spatial Planning Working Group (HELCOM-VASAB MSP WG 16-2018) was held in Helsinki, Finland, from 8 to 9 May 2018 in the Ministry of the Environment of Finland.
The meeting was organized back-to-back with the first international consultations on maritime spatial plans which are being developed in Finland.