The state is planning to reform its marine protection strategy of the Baltic Sea – one of the most polluted seas in the world – to protect better marine life from further negative impacts of human activities.
The government has instructed the Ministry of Climate to prepare proposals by October next year to launch a reform of marine environmental protection. The reform's objective is to establish environmental measures that provide enhanced protection for marine life in the face of human activities. Examples of such human activities include wind, tidal or solar farms, shellfish and fish farms, or the extraction of minerals from the seabed.
Rene Reisner, head of the marine environment department at the Ministry of Climate, said that the condition of the Baltic Sea is poor and if not adequately protected, it will get worse.
"It is profitable to put up wind turbines in areas with shallow water, but doing so generates environmental conflicts. Shallow marine ecosystems are valuable and species-rich. Then, our primary concern is what to do. The potential solutions to this dilemma have not been adequately studied," he said.
"We have to decide on the possibilities of compensating for developed areas with alternative habitats, redesigning construction sites to accommodate wind turbines while eventually restoring ecosystems as well, or think of some other innovative measure that we do not yet know about," he continued.
Reisner said that the state aims to investigate every sort of price tag related with the use of maritime resources; however, the question of whether wind farm developers should be required to pay environmental fees in the future remains unclear.
"Traditionally, these environmental charges are applied or developed on the assumption that they are pollution charges, paid when, for example, pollutants are discharged into the sea, or when there is direct damage in the form of an additive. The second category is resource charges, i.e. if a resource is used in certain way," Reisner explained.
Environmental impact assessments (EIAs), Reisner said, will be the basis for the planning of mitigation measures for new developments. These assessments should determine which measures are necessary.
Aleksei Lotman, an Estonian biologist, environmentalist and politician, head of the marine program at the Estonian Fund for Nature (Eestimaa Looduse Fond), said that offshore wind farms should not be built outside the areas set out in current planning. Wind farms located on the migration routes of birds could also injure them.
"In the current plan, there are no wind farm areas in the marine area of Hiiu County, so this has to be planned separately because what was originally planned was rejected by the Supreme Court, and in the light of more recent data, at least some of these areas are actually too high in natural value. So Hiiumaa definitely needs to look at all these proposals again," Lotman said.
Lotman said that more marine space must be protected than is currently the case.
"At the very least, areas where there is no direct conflict with wind energy should be protected as a matter of urgency. These are based on avian species, but in fact, the regions where birds rest are a reasonably accurate representation of the sea's more biodiverse regions as a whole," he said.
Currently, 28 percent of Estonia's territorial and inland waters are protected. However, Estonia has set an EU target to protect at least 30 percent of it by 2030.
Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Kristina Kersa