Coordinated by the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI), the SmartSea project has been awarded funding by the Academy of Finland. The project studies the potential of the sustainable use of the Gulf of Bothnia and involves altogether eight research institutes.
The Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland has selected four projects for its newly founded ‘Climate-Neutral and Resource-Scare Finland’ research programme.
The purpose of the SmartSea project is to support the growth of commercial marine activities in the Gulf of Bothnia region. The Gulf of Bothnia is an essential resource in terms of fish farming and wind power, for example, and it is also possible to make use of the geological natural resources of the gulf.
Furthermore, the Gulf of Bothnia is an area in which the climate change impacts the conditions to a notable extent, from the severity of ice winters to the abundance of the fish stock. The rapid growth of the commercial marine activities and the consequences of the climate change may lead to conflicts between the different activities and harm the marine ecosystem at the Gulf of Bothnia. The project aims to identify these risks and find solutions for the sustainable use of the sea.
The SmartSea project involves an assessment of the ways in which the Gulf of Bothnia will change in the next decades. In addition to assessing the impacts of the climate change, the project aims to find out how the natural resources at the seabed can be used in a sustainable manner, map the risks imposed on the marine nature by commercial activities and develop new fish farming methods. An essential part of the project is identifying practical and administrative obstacles to ‘blue growth’, i.e. commercial activities related to the sea.
SmartSea will also examine possible ways to mitigate the human-induced strain on marine environments by focusing such functions as fish farming and wind power production on specific areas. The project will produce a maritime spatial planning tool that can be used to weigh the risks of different activities, such as coastal construction, nature reserve areas and offshore activities. The key idea is that sustainable growth can only be attained by planning the use of sea areas wisely. At the same time, synergies between the activities can be increased.
The project will last for six years and its funding totals nearly eight million euros. The project involves close to 40 researchers from eight different institutions: the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the Finnish Environment Institute, Natural Resources Institute Finland, Geological Survey of Finland, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, the Universities of Helsinki and Turku and the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI).
The strategic funding by the Academy of Finland is divided between three programmes for which it selected 16 consortia and granted them a total of 52.5 million euros for 2015 to 2017.