digital stakeholder meeting

4th stakeholder meeting within GRASS was organized by SYKE in a digital format

The 1st Finnish stakeholder meeting and the 4th in total GRASS stakeholder meeting took place on May 4th, 2020 in a digital format. The organizer Finnish Environment Institute SYKE was dealing with cultivation of macroalgae in the Baltic Sea and use of the harvested biomass from regulatory view point.

The event was organized as Teams digital meeting with altogether 23 participants from government institutes, public authorities, university, foundation and companies. The event was led by Jonna Piiparinen and contained presentations of GRASS partners (Kristian Spilling, Kirsi Kostamo, Anu-Lähteenmäki-Uutela, Antti Belinskij and Moona Rahikainen) and invited speakers representing the public authorities (Ville Salonen) and companies (Mikael Westerlund, Jari Kokkkonen). Excluding the introduction, the event was organized in Finnish. Presentations raised discussion and in general the participants found the event interesting and useful. Also, some collaborations were initiated during the event.

The event started with welcoming everybody followed by the introduction of GRASS consortium by Kristian Spilling (SYKE).

In the presentation by Kirsi Kostamo (SYKE), the macroalgal cultivation from the marine spatial planning point of view and the pros (nutrient removal, possibility to develop renewable energy production) and cons (space is taken away from other uses) of macroalgal cultivation was discussed. In Finland, any economic activity placed at the sea requires to be in line with the maritime spatial planning based on EU Maritime Spatial Planning Directive as well as national regional plan, local master plan and local detailed plan.

Anu Lähteenmäki-Uutela (SYKE) presented the legal aspects of macroalgal cultivation in the northern Europe. An aquaculture permit is required for operating in the sea area, and all countries have their own permit procedures. The legal process is time consuming, as macroalgae cultivation is a new activity for both the entrepreneurs and for the authorities. The conclusion was that the permit process should be streamlined (e.g. one-stop-shop) and collaboration between Baltic countries is needed for developing a shared understanding on the environmental criteria.

Antti Belinskij (SYKE) discussed macroalgae cultivation as a nutrient offsetting measure in his presentation. Especially, macroalgae cultivation could provide new possibilities to offset nutrient loading stemming from fish farming. The presentation included four parts: 1) Blue growth objectives in EU and Finland, 2) the legal requirements of fish farming, 3) possibilities to nutrient mitigation and 4) nutrient offsetting and microalgae. The presentation stated that EU and Finland strongly support fish farming and blue growth in general. However, the reconciliation of fish farming and the environmental objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive has proved to be very challenging. In general, it would be important to manage the cumulative impacts and try to find new ways to offset nutrient emissions in the Baltic Sea. Macroalgae cultivation could play, among mussel farming and other activities, a central role in offsetting nutrient emissions. However, that would require that nutrient offsetting would be included in river basin management planning and considered in permit processes.

Senior Environmental Adviser Ville Salonen from the State Regional Administrative Agency (Aluehallintovirasto, AVI) spoke about the need for a water permit for cultivating macroalgae in the sea. Water and environmental permits are granted by four different AVIs in Finland. Evaluation on whether a permit is needed is under the competence of the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (Elinkeino-, liikenne- ja ympäristökeskus, ELY-keskus). Salonen estimates that a water permit would often suffice even for large-scale macroalgae cultivation. An environmental permit is not required, if there are no emissions of substances that are harmful for the environment. The entrepreneur also needs to have a right to govern the water area, either through ownership of through contract. In Water Act it is also possible to apply the right-of-use to the water area.

Moona Rahikainen (University of Turku) summarized the EU legislation concerning macroalgae food and feed products. The EU novel food regulation guards the entry of novel seaweed species to the market as food products or food supplements whereas various feed materials are accepted in the EU regardless of their species composition. In addition, the use of seaweed derived food additives and product labeling of seaweed foods is regulated by EU legislation. However, the legislation suffers of deficiencies what comes to the regulation of toxic heavy metals in seaweed food products. Moreover, difficulties in macroalgae species identification and use of nonspecific terminology in legislative documents may pose challenges for practitioners and authorities.

The CEO of Origin by Ocean, Mikael Westerlund, told about their startup company established in 2019, which aims to build the first neo-ecology-biorefinery in Finland using cultivated macroalgae biomass (bladder wrack) for producing added-value ingredients for food, beverage, cosmetics and pharma industries. The vision of the company is to create economically feasible algae-based business, which would also help to mitigate the eutrophication problem in the Baltic Sea. The founders have been working on this project for some 8 years now. For the past two years the founders, together with company advisors and KPMG Ltd, have been working on the concept validation, target markets and business modelling (https://home.kpmg/fi/fi/home/Pinnalla/2020/04/in-the-business-of-changing-the-world.html). The operation is at early stages, but Origin by Ocean has already made deals with several companies from various fields (e.g. beverage, cosmetics) to explore how the macroalgal biomass/ compounds could be exploited. The goal is to have the biorefinery operational with full production capacity by 2026.

Jari Kokkonen, the CEO of Arvo Kokkonen Ltd, introduced their company which has been supplying fish and seafood to various customers for over 40 years and holds FOS, MSC, ASC, BAP, Global GAP, KRAV certificates. Initially they sold bladder wrack (Fucus vesiculosus) only for decoration but during the years they have broadened their selection of edible macroalgae both in fresh and dry forms. Currently only few seaweed products are available for consumers in retail stores and the majority is sold directly to Asian restaurants. However, the use of seaweed as ecological and “trendy” ingredient in vegetarian/ vegan cooking could potentially increase the demand for seaweed by vegetarian restaurants.

Author: Joanna Piiparinen, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE

Status 18.05.2020.

Banner copy right: Finnish Environment Institute SYKE.

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