Stakeholder workshops on innovative uses of Baltic Sea resources for reducing eutrophication and strengthening local economies
With the aim of spreading information about the results of the projects and raising discussion about innovative Baltic Sea resource use, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development (MEPRD) in cooperation with the Environmental Development Association as representative organizations from SUBMARINER project as well as the Latvian Environmental Investment Fund (Baltic EcoMussel, Cofreen projects) and Kurzeme Planning Region (Baltic EcoMussel) organized three workshops in coastal municipalities in Latvia. Two of them were hosted by EcoMussel and one by SUBMARINER and MEPRD.
Local administration specialists, decision makers, fishermen, tourism entrepreneurs and environmental specialists from coastal regions were invited to take a part and give their vision and opinion about mussel cultivation, reed harvesting and macroalgae harvesting in Latvia as well as to describe their interest and opportunities to promote innovative and sustainable Baltic Sea resource use in coastal regions.
There are 13 municipalities and four big cities (including the capital of Latvia) situated at coastal region with population 929,000 people or 42 % of Latvia's total population. Traditional economical activities in coastal regions for centuries have been related to fishing, port activities, tourism and recreation. During the last decade there have been significant changes in fisheries and coastal regions faces with many socio-economical problems such as unemployment, shrinking number of people, population ageing etc.
Participants accepted positively the ideas of the projects for reducing eutrophication and promoting regional development with mussel cultivation, reed harvesting and macroalgae cultivation and agreed that it might be one of future development directions which have to be discussed today.
Representatives from local administration admitted that during the last decade water quality has deteriorated and effects of eutrophication already are sensitive issue in some areas in Riga bay, therefore coastal municipalities are with particular interest to reduce these negative effects.
Participants admitted that there is lack of traditions using other Baltic Sea resources other than fish. Reed roofs and agar production from Furcellaria can be recognized in Latvia, but mussel cultivation, macroalgae harvesting for biogas production is a completely new concept and pioneer pilot-sites are missing. Also the question about financial issues and planned mechanisms for ecosystem service compensation were discussed, quota trading schemes and subsidies approach were seen as solution how to make industry more economically feasible and fishermen admitted that they look forward for this economical measures. Overall participants concluded that although mussel cultivation, reed harvesting and macroalgae harvesting and cultivation is still under-explored topic and raise many questions about the economical and ecological benefits, in nearest future it might be perspective niche economical sector of coastal regions.
All of the coastal municipalities in Latvia were invited to participate and give an opinion about the SUBMARINER concept. It has helped to spread information about the SUBMARINER activities and raise discussion about the Baltic Sea resource use with one of the main target groups in Latvia.