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14.08.2018 10:00

Seamless Bothnian Bay - SEAmBOTH

Essi Keskinen

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.
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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.

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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.
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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.

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Drop videos are used for a quick scan of the area. Photo: Suvi Saarnio
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When scuba diving, everything that is unidentified, can be taken as samples. Photo: Suvi Saarnio
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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


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