Marine protected area management in the Finnish Gulf of Bothnia

On Monday, April 24, Waltteri Niemelä will defend his master‘s thesis in Coastal and Marine Management. His thesis is titled Marine protected area management in the Finnish Gulf of Bothnia. Connections between underwater nature, human activity and management.

The thesis advisor is Markku Viitasalo, PhD a research professor at the Finnish Environment Institute. The external reader is Zoi Konstantinou, PhD at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.


Marine protected areas are important and useful tools of marine conservation. They have been found to positively affect biodiversity, fisheries, economy, and societies. These effects however are unlikely to become concrete without sound, rigorous management. This management should be based on the highest quality of knowledge on the site in question, taking into consideration the environment, economy, and society. Finland has been in the forefront of MPA establishment, reaching international coverage goals very early on. This thesis sets to assess if this relatively high coverage of MPAs is planned and managed well from the perspective of underwater nature. Nine MPAs were chosen from the Gulf of Bothnia, from various regions and ecosystem types, to study the level of protection in different sites, and get an overall image of the nationwide management approach. These sites were explored using data of ecology, human activity and management. The ecology was studied using the newly published VELMU data of the underwater environment covering the Finnish Baltic Sea. Human activity data was then used to evaluate the pressures the areas face. The management was studied using any available account of the MPAs, including management plans and legislation applied to the sites. All this was pooled together to form a profile of the sites, which was then evaluated in its management efficiency. The MPA management at these sites was found to be general, with only three of them having a management plan and all of them being managed and regulated with legislation mostly. Further investigation of the management documents and legislation confirmed that the conservation action taking place in the MPAs mostly considered terrestrial and shoreline species, and birds, and largely disregarded the underwater environment. Hence most likely it does not protect the aquatic nature effectively. The effort already put into the MPAs in Finland shows promise of great potential and improvement, but more emphasis should be put on the protection of underwater marine species and habitats.

Waltteri Niemelä will defend his master‘s thesis in Coastal and Marine Management on Monday.