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The Baltic Maritime Heritage – Spatial Atlas

The importance of protecting and sustaining the maritime cultural heritage in the Baltic Sea Region

Maritime cultural heritage have not been properly protected in many Baltic countries so far. The reason are numerous but among them the most important can be named as following:

  1. Protection efforts are done at national level therefore protection standards and ambitions differ whereas maritime cultural heritage belongs to the common heritage of all Baltic nations.
  2. There is lack of commonly agreed definition of maritime cultural heritage that can guide the protective efforts whereas the actual composition of this category is very diverse. This pose an intellectual difficulty for the users of the sea space that might not be aware of negative impacts of their activities on maritime cultural heritage. The practical adverse result is reduction of maritime cultural heritage to underwater cultural heritage −mainly wrecks− and by that many other historical objects are neglected.
  3. Information on maritime cultural heritage is scarce and in many cases not easy to be obtained. It requires costly research efforts that are done by few specialised public agencies with limited budgets.
  4. International law that provides bases for protection of maritime cultural heritage is insufficient in particular in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and areas beyond national jurisdiction. Moreover the enforcement of the existing law poses many challenges and in majority of cases is based on a good will of users of the sea space and their voluntary compliance to the existing rules.

Therefore protection of maritime cultural heritage would require co-operation of many sea stakeholders including various public authorities, MGOs and private sector. The starting point should be in education and information efforts in order to raise awareness of the aforesaid stakeholders on the importance of maritime cultural heritage and the threats created for its preservation due to intensification of the commercial usage of the sea areas. This atlas is a part of such information strategy.

According to the Blue Growth strategy that has been recently put forward by the European Commission, oceans hold the key to the future for the European Union and many nations around the world. According to the OECD in 2010, the blue economy yielded global products and services worth 1.5 trillion or 2.5% of world gross value added, providing 31 million jobs. According to EU estimates Blue Economy established sectors provided employment for 4 million people in EU with an average salary €26,400 per annum, and contributed to the EU economy with gross added value of €180 billion. New methods of reaping the benefits of the sea has been emerging and the current ones are undergoing profound transformations. New sectors such as off-shore renewable energy generation, extraction of polymetallic nodules, bio-tech or CO2 storage have just started to appear at the sea. All these creates threats for the preservation of the maritime cultural heritage. But by the same there is the chance for the maritime cultural heritage. It can be a part of the sustainable blue growth efforts and blue growth can intensify the search and monitoring of the maritime cultural heritage.

One of the remedies to alleviate risks related to intensified usage of the sea space is maritime spatial planning (MSP) introduced by EU in a form of MSP Directive in 2014. MSP should be also seen as a chance for protection of maritime cultural heritage.

The focus of this report is to explore this chance and to make it true by creating a common language and discussion platform between maritime spatial planners and officers responsible for protection of maritime cultural heritage in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) countries. The atlas will not solve all the mentioned at the beginning problems related to preservation of the Baltic maritime cultural heritage, but at least it hopefully will open and prompt the maritime spatial planners towards the need of more careful approach on maritime cultural heritage. Having this ambition in mind the atlas is prepared in line with the needs of the maritime spatial planners making use of the planning vocabulary, dwelling on MSP documents and putting visual language to the forefront.

Read the full publication here.

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