Why do maps, used by environmental
authorities at sea, stop at the border, even though habitats and species
continue to thrive on the sea floor, despite the boundaries of states? On the
Finnish side, authorities have only half of the information of the Northern
Bothnian Bay. The data on the Swedish
side is not available on the Finnish side, and vice versa.
Ranunuclus peltatus ssp baudotii has beautiful flowers. Photo: Suvi Saarnio
By the end of 2021, all EU countries will
have to come up with a national marine spatial plan, which will be consulted
with their neighboring countries. Would it not be easier to draw up such plans
if the information was originally covered by the whole marine area and not just
within the territories of the states? And how can we jointly handle border
regions, such as the Tornio River estuary, when all the contents of the map
stop at the border?
SEAmBOTH (Seamless Mapping and Management of the Bothnian Bay) project received
funding of EUR 2.9 million from Interreg North and saw daylight in May 2017.
The project leader is Metsähallitus. SEAmBOTH involves organizations from both
sides of the Northern Bothnian Bay. Metsähallitus and Länsstyrelsen Norrbotten
are doing biological underwater species and habitat mapping, while the
Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) and Sweden's Sveriges geologiska
undersökning (SGU) both survey the depth, topography and bottom sediments. The
Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) is responsible for modeling and remote
sensing (use of satellite data), and the Lapland and North Ostrobothnia Centres
for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY) acquire water
samples and map shallow water areas.
Sometimes the weather is on the marine biologist’s side. Photo: Suvi Saarnio
During the ongoing three years, the purpose of the project is to collect new
inventory data and to aggregate all previous data from the project area
together. The final seminar of February 2020 aims to produce, for example,
species distribution and modeling maps that cross the border from the Finnish
west coast to the eastern coast of Sweden, from Hailuoto to Tornio. In
addition, the project will harmonize both mapping methods and descriptions of
habitats, involve citizens, authorities and other interested people in the
region, and communicate both regionally and nationally about the special nature
of the Bothnian Bay and why the sea is to be protected. The project also tries
to give nature a value. For example, one area can be more valuable because of
its high biodiversity than another area. In addition, human pressures and their
location in relation to the most valuable natural sites are considered.
Photo: Suvi Saarnio
Currently, the second field season of the
project is taking place. All project partners have succeeded in the field work which
they have planned, and many stakeholder meetings have already been held. In the
summer of 2018, a joint project field trip to the Perämeri National Park was
also held. The project partners were able to try Metsähallitus methods for
collecting biological samples with drop video and wading with water binoculars.
Drop videos are used for a quick scan of the area. Photo: Suvi Saarnio
When scuba diving, everything that is unidentified, can be taken as samples. Photo: Suvi Saarnio
A water binocular is used a lot in the underwater biological inventories. Photo: Suvi Saarnio
Both countries’ partners have participated in many
public events, boating events and presented the project and the unique
underwater nature of the Bothnian Bay to a lot of school children. Young people
are the future, and they need to know why the Northernmost Bothnian Bay must be
protected in the future. Blue growth and the potential of sustainable
development create both jobs and enable economic growth in the future. The sea needs
to be in a good ecological condition and well
maintained so that it can be enjoyed by future generations as well. And since
the Northern Bothnian Bay is a border sea, states must cooperate with marine
spatial planning and managing the sea.
Even the logo of the project shows it to us - we are trying to make one from
two and create a truly seamless Bothnian Bay.
Text written by Essi Keskinen, project coordinator, Metsähallitus