• Post category:Articles
  • Post published:31.1.2023

Maritime Spatial Plan 2030 – a window to the future

Finland’s first Maritime Spatial Plan defines a framework for the development of Finland’s sea areas. What does the future look like?


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Kuva: Vaasan kaupunki / Kimmo Makkonen

The Maritime Spatial Plan is a strategic development document for a sustainable blue economy, and its key goal is to support the status of the marine environment. The plan is illustrated on a map. Map symbols depict significant locations with maritime values and functions, as well as areas with a future potential and their location in Finland’s sea areas. 

Sustainable well-being from the sea

Maritime stakeholders, together with maritime spatial planners, have built a shared vision for sea areas: Sustainable well-being from the sea. A healthy Baltic Sea and healthy people walk side-by-side in a mutualistic relationship and support a sustainable blue economy. Using regional development targets and roadmaps, anyone can see what steps are required to fulfil the vision.

The guiding principle is that well-being in the marine environment and the use of sea areas cannot be in conflict with one another, as sustainable blue growth only produces maximum benefits when the operation of the marine ecosystem is secured and the marine environment is in a healthy state. A healthy sea is a productive sea.

Synergies and multiple uses of the sea area

The Maritime Spatial Plan helps identify locations and processes, as well as future processes, which are significant for the current state of maritime sectors and the marine environment. The different needs and future prospects of various parties have challenged planners to consider reasons for plans and ways to present them on a map.

For example, outlining fishing areas on a map is challenging, as fishers use the sea area very extensively. The scale (1:750,000) also sets its limitations on how to present point-like features. However, identifying value chains in the fishing industry – and presenting it on a plan map – is important to illustrate the significance of the sector. Fishing and aquaculture are part of Finnish food production, and their carbon footprint is fairly small compared with meat production, for example.

The draft plan indicates the most significant gillnet and trawler fishing areas of professional fishers. In addition, trap net locations and fishing ports are available as background map material. Fish spawning areas are indicated using the “Significant ecological underwater nature values” marking.

The “Energy production” marking shows wind power locations that have the highest potential for the future. The plan adopts a proactive approach to the transition to large offshore production facilities. It also addresses strategic goals for growth and the space they require. Optimised location control prepared in the SmartSea project is used in the definition of areas, considering economic, ecological and societal factors.

However, the Maritime Spatial Plan does not reserve any areas for future uses, nor is it a promise of the future. Wind turbines will continue to require planning and permit processes and environmental impact assessment procedures as before. 

Open planning

The Plan is by its nature enabling, not exclusive. Areas cannot be reserved solely for any specific sector, and operations are not prohibited in sea areas outside the markings. The goal is to illustrate the different and often overlapping needs of various parties and also raise discussion of them.

Several overlapping operations are allocated in sea areas in the plan. This indicates that different parties have interests and future potentials in the same areas. Different parties can find opportunities for cooperation and on the other hand, possible conflicts can be avoided by discussing beforehand. 

The themes covered by the plan cannot be examined as separate map layers. This is appropriate, as operations cannot be planned sustainably if the needs of other parties and the locations of operations are unknown. The sea area is indefinite, where everything affects everything, and not all cumulative impacts can yet be identified.

Efficiency through collaborative decision making

Maritime spatial planning has been carried out in close cooperation with different stakeholders over the course of several years. As a result, volumes of information about the needs of different parties has beenobtained. The impact of the plan comes from the process, in which stakeholders understand one another, are committed to the plan and feel it as their own cause. 

The Maritime Spatial Plan is an important national and regional strategy document, which guides the sustainable use of sea areas. It also provides indirect steering As a tool of spatial planning, it supports regional planning and development by providing information about the opportunities and conditions of maritime sectors and the maritime environment.

Fact box:

Maritime spatial planning is based on the EU directive (2014/89/EU) on maritime spatial planning, which is implemented nationally in the Land Use and Building Act. Eight coastal regions prepared three Maritime Spatial Plans, covering territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone. The plans are reviewed at least every six years to ensure that they are up to date.

Maritime spatial planning focuses especially on activities related to the preservation, conservation and improvement of the environment and nature eg. the energy sector, maritime transport, fishing and aquaculture, tourism and recreation.Other key themes for planning include cultural heritage, the maritime industry, the extractive sector and blue biotechnology. Maritime spatial planning pays attention to the needs of national defence, the special characteristics of sea areas, and land-sea interactions.

Finland’s Maritime Spatial Plan 2030 was approved in December 2020. Read the digital plan at www.merialuesuunnitelma.fi or see the original map image in PDF format here.

Author: Mari Pohja-Mykrä works as a coordinator of the Finnish maritime spatial planning cooperation. Email: firstname.lastname@varsinais-suomi.fi