Description of the area

ENERGY

EU’s energy union and the opposition of the Finnish Defence Force to the construction of wind power cause a conflicting situation in the Gulf of Finland. This prevents any significant construction of wind power in the Gulf of Finland. The energy union brings cables to the seafloor, connecting various areas, and the Gulf of Finland is used as an energy transmission platform. Production is decentralised and storage is developed.

MARITIME TRANSPORT

The security environment moves focus to the maritime connections from the ports of Helsinki and Kotka to continental Europe and Sweden. Land and air transport increases at the expense of sea transport. The security environment also impacts the movement of people, decreasing passenger transport by sea significantly, which causes problems to the tourism industry. Few autonomous vessels are seen in the Gulf of Finland. Their test areas and operation are placed in other maritime areas.

STATE OF THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT

The state of the maritime area in the Gulf of Finland continues to decline. With the tensions, the role of the Finnish Defence Force increases in the Gulf of Finland, and the possible increase in defence force areas restricts the establishment of new nature conservation areas, among other things. The islands closed due to the defence forces retain their natural state. The increased number of seafloor cabling due to the energy union may have a harmful effect on the marine nature.

FISHING AND AQUACULTURE

The reduction of civil transport in the maritime area affects fishery and trawling. The small volume of fishing is evenly distributed on the coast of the Gulf of Finland except the Helsinki region. The tensions between the countries in the region reduce the export of fish to Russia, although foreign trade making up for this may be obtainable elsewhere, such as from China. Aquaculture grows multifold in front of Hanko and Helsinki, among others, which compensates the weakened possibilities for fishing.

TOURISM AND RECREATIONAL USE

Foreign tourist streams to the Gulf of Finland are reduced and the regional tourism and recreation trend is not fully adequate to make up for this, even though the migration gain of the area increases the local tourism and recreational use of the area by residents. Only Hanko and Helsinki are able to retain their favourable position amongst tourists.  The weakening of the Russian connection has a highly negative impact on tourism in the Gulf of Finland, and cruise tourists from St. Petersburg no longer visit the ports of the Gulf of Finland. The possible expansion of Finnish Defence Force areas in front of Kotka and Porkkala hinders the recreational use of these areas. The seascape becomes a luxury product, and proximity to the shore is a subject of competition between several interested parties. The cabling projects which have increased with the energy union hinder recreational boating, which reduces the attraction of the maritime area for recreational use.

CULTURAL HERITAGE

Cultural heritage is overridden by security issues. Shipwrecks and building stock are destroyed to make way for security devices. The use of maritime areas is restricted significantly, and the seascape becomes a privilege of select few people. The disappearance of cultural heritage and landscape is significant in the Gulf of Finland compared to Finland’s other maritime areas. Migration pressure in the Gulf of Finland increases the need to preserve cultural heritage and its values.

Risks and opportunities

the Gulf of Finland

ECOLOGICAL STATE OF THE SEA

  • Risks include nutrient load from aquaculture, spreading of polluted seabottom sediments due to quick infrastructure development needs, sea traffic accidents, exchange of information across the borders becoming more difficult, new infrastructure needs of the Finnish Defence Force
  • Opportunities include the increased diversity of nature in areas reserved for defence, increased significance of joint environmental treaties, decreased dredging need
  • To be considered in particular in the planning of the maritime area: pressure to the shoreline due to use

SUSTAINABLE GROWTH OF BLUE ECONOMY

  • Risks include reduced foreign investments (incl. Russian shopping tourism), decreased prices of seafront plots, impact of water quality on the demand of aquacultured fish, lack of environmental cooperation with Russia, difficulties in long-term planning, lack of competent people
  • Opportunities include increased local investments (local recreation), use of waste heat from data centres in aquaculture, increased self-sufficiency of the area, impact of infrastructure construction (cabling etc.) on employment, increased significance of the Kotka–Hamina port
  • To be considered in particular in the planning of the maritime area: mixing of sediments, private water bodies near the coast (requires cooperation), safeguarding public recreational areas in the sea

PEOPLE’S WELL-BEING AND PARTICIPATION

  • Risks include the withering of the economy as a result of protectionism, speed of decision-making
  • Opportunities include the increased recreational use of shores
  • To be considered in particular in the planning of the maritime area: ensuring the public use of maritime areas even in a tense situation, emphasizing the shared interests with Russia on the sea (developing of maritime area planning as a “tool for peace”)