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Cross-border cooperation round table

On November 11,  in Finland was held an online round table where cross-border cooperation and spatial planning were discussed. Invited participants are regional/national authorities responsible for maritime spatial planning & researchers in the field.

TOPIC 1: Ecosystem-Based Approach from Theory into Practice - best practices to facilitate crossborder co-operation in marine and in coastal zone management MSP aims at improving or maintaining the natural ecosystems and their resilience, as well as to develop socio-economic conditions, human well-being and blue economy and businesses in the coastal and marine areas.

These are not contradictory goals in the ecosystem-based management, and it was noted that it is possible to achieve both socio-economic and environmental MSP goals by applying differently tuned governance styles. An example is the EU countries’ slightly different emphases between economy and the environment as, e.g., in the Baltic Sea region, the responsibility of national MSP processes has been addressed to ministries with an environmental focus in Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Sweden, and to ministries with an economic focus in Denmark, Estonia, Germany, and Poland.

The Finnish maritime spatial planning process has been stakeholder-oriented, according to the principles of the ecosystem-based management. The responsible authorities have involved scientific community, different groups of marine space users, incl. businesses as well as leisure, and wider audience in the planning process already in the early stages. Communication with the stakeholders has been active, and information has been shared in different stages of the planning process (e.g. collection of the data and knowledge about the environment and human activities, creation of future scenarios, and circulation of draft plans for comments). Finnish experience from the first national planning process shows that applying the ecosystem-based approach presents a cyclic learning process.

The first planning cycle appears to have been very timeconsuming and requiring resources, since the process lacks any ready-made schemes and practices. Furthermore, the strategic nature of the process requires consideration and balancing between various aspects and views. It was strongly considered amongst the participants of the workshop that stakeholder involvement is a key factor in the successful process; it was considered extremely important that the views of marine space users are taken into account right from the beginning of the process.

Strong stakeholder involvement also promotes to the success of the plan in the end. There will be larger acceptance for the plan, when stakeholders have the possibility to take part, and have influence on the process. It is worth paying attention in MSP that when new sea use sectors are emerging, there may be need to reconcile the emerging uses and innovations with current ones.

 

TOPIC 2: Land-Sea Interactions at Different Levels – Best Practices. Interaction of the current land use planning systems and marine spatial planning system – best practices to increase the interaction of these systems in order to facilitate marine and coastal zone management and planning. What are the most efficient ways of linking the marine spatial planning and coastal zone management processes?

The challenge comes from the fact that maritime spatial planning concerns only areas starting from the shoreline, even though many activities taking place on land have an impact on the marine environment – and vice versa. During the Finnish planning process, these land-sea connections have been detected and discussed in order to be able to see the whole picture of the marine and coastal dynamics.

More experience is expected to be gained in the next phases. Land-sea interaction was considered as an important but challenging issue in the planning process. For example, if new areas for fish farming and aquaculture are not planned due to already burdened sea areas, this may not be seen as fair from the farmers’ side, if the existing burden originates not only from offshore, but also from onshore activities (such as agriculture, for example).

Another example is maritime tourism and recreational services, as their activities are performed in the marine environment, whereas the infrastructure behind is located onshore (for example, boat harbours and tourist islands). It was considered important to reveal, discuss and try to find solutions or compromises for different stakeholders or sea users to enable their activities, businesses and wellbeing. Port activities present an example of interaction from sea to land. Port logistics are directly linked with terrestrial road and rail traffic planning and construction.

The Finnish GET READY case study has examined how, and to what extent, the principles of ecosystem-based maritime spatial planning approach have been applied in Kymenlaakso regional plan and Kotka-Hamina strategic general plan. In the workshop discussions, the use of ecosystem services concept was brought up as one important tool in the planning process. It is a framework that enables to define and visualize the linkages between ecosystems and human wellbeing. Examples of ecosystem services present, for example, biomass and carbon sequestration. In addition, the value of nature in itself should be taken into account, and the possible ways of taking benefit out of it.

 

TOPIC 3: Best Practices of Participatory Planning. Stakeholder mapping, analysis and inclusion in maritime spatial planning and coastal zone management. Best practices of stakeholder involvement at national level and in cross-border co-operation.

As discussed earlier, the Finnish maritime spatial planning process has been very stakeholderoriented, involving different groups of marine space users in all phases. It was strongly seen amongst the participants of the workshop that stakeholder involvement has played - and it should play - a very important role in the process.

However, there is still room for improvement in the next planning cycles. Thus, the evaluation and monitoring phases are important in order to collect new information and views to feed the planning of next cycle and its activities. Scenario work was brought up as an efficient tool in stakeholder involvement. It has been shown in the Finnish process that joint visioning of different future scenarios provides a fruitful ground for discussions between different stakeholders.

Scenario work allows looking at the marine space from a wider perspective than one’s own viewpoint only. It is important to open one’s eyes not only for different, desired or neutral scenarios, but also for worst cases, that is, possible consequences for us all, if the state of the marine environment deteriorates considerably. In Finland, scenario work has been applied earlier already in land use planning. First, it may appear that it is difficult to free one’s mind and think of something that might be in the future. It was considered that, despite the challenges, it can sometimes be useful to try and imagine circumstances even very far from the prevailing situation.

Experience from the earlier land use planning processes shows that stakeholder participation tends to be more active when it is connected to one’s own activities. For example, when the plan is concrete enough, fishers can be interested in port expansion and dredging works in a port area. Whereas, if planning is on a very general level, and it is not clear how it can affect one’s own activities, relevance is not shown, and there is less interest. 

 

Finland’s first maritime spatial plan proposal is available at https://meriskenaariot.info/merialuesuunnitelma/en/suunnitelma-johdanto-eng/.