On the 26th and 27th of August 2021, the EU4Ocean Baltic Sea Basin Event on Ocean Literacy ”Let’s make the Baltic Sea Blue!” took place online and inspired everyone to join and strengthen the Baltic Ocean Literacy Community. The event was organised jointly by the EU4Ocean Coalition and the John Nurminen Foundation’s Baltic Sea Day.
On the first day, the High-level opening kicked off the activities. Many high-level representatives of Ocean Institutes around the Baltic Sea Region welcomed participants and set the scene for the two-day event. Speakers included the DG MARE Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginius Sinkevičius, DG MARE Policy Officer Zoe Konstantinou, the Executive Secretary from the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission HELCOM Rüdiger Strempel, the Marine Center Director of the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE Paula Kankaanpää, and the CEO of the John Nurminen Foundation Annamari Arrakoski-Engardt.
“The more we know, the better!”
Following the high-level opening, participants engaged in a conversation with key ocean professionals around the Baltic Sea, including the Centre for Sea and Society University of Gothenburg Director Lena Gipperth, Baltic Sea Action Group Content Director Laura Höijer, BONUS EEIG Executive Director and Coordinator of BANOS CSA Andris Andrusaitis, VASAB Head of Secretariat Alda Nikodemusa, PA Bioeconomy EUSBSR Fredric Nilsson, CPMR Baltic Sea Commission Executive Secretary Lucille Ehrhart and John Nurminen Foundation Director of Clean Baltic Sea Projects Marjukka Porvari. The session was moderated by Angela Schultz-Zehden from the SUBMARINER Network for Blue Growth. The focus was how to strengthen the network of Baltic Ocean Professionals and to agree on a way forward to increase Baltic Ocean Literacy. Speakers represented the Baltic Sea Action Group BSAG, the Joint Baltic Sea Research and Development Programme BONUS EEIG, Visions and Strategies around the Baltic Sea VASAB, EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region EUSBSR Policy Area Bioeconomy, Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions CPMR Baltic Sea Commission, the Centre for Sea and Society of the University of Gothenburg, and the John Nurminen Foundation. The session stressed that everyone has a role to play in strengthening Ocean Literacy in the Baltic Sea basin and that a vision for the Baltic must be focused around the concept of inclusivity.
“Don’t be afraid to go for the high-hanging fruit!”
The event had a specific focus on Baltic Youth Engagement and thus included numerous sessions centered around Baltic Youth. Starting off, there was the Baltic Young Ocean Advocates Pitching Contest, a session organised and moderated by Maelle Montier from the EU4Ocean Youth4Ocean Forum. Five young Baltic Youth representatives (Veronika Saulite (Eco Citizen), Iida Pykko (BalticSeapp), Zuzanna Witek (Thriving Corals), Laura Stukonyte (Po Bangom) and Luca Arfinin (Young Leaders in Blue Economy) briefly pitched their projects to over 70 participants. There was a public vote as well as a three-headed jury, and both votes were won by the Lithuanian Po Bangom project, the first and only Lithuanian Ocean Literacy initiative, which focuses on communicating scientific information in an easy to understand and fun way. The other pitches included the “Eco Citizen”; “BalticSeapp”; ”Thriving Corals” and “Young Leaders in Blue Economy” projects.
Following the amazing pitching contest, the event moved on to the session ”Youth Perspective on Ocean Literacy”, which allowed youth and ocean professionals to be in direct contact and ask each other relevant questions, such as how Baltic citizens and stakeholders can become more ocean literate and how Baltic Youth can be brought in closer contact with ocean professionals. The participants also discussed tips they know to engage people to become more Ocean Literate and to care (even more) about the Baltic. The day ended with a closing session where the new #MakeEUBlue campaign was introduced – and all participants had submitted their own pledge for the ocean!
On the second day, participants discussed how to “make the Baltic Sea Blue” in terms of practical steps and ways forward in different communities. During the welcome session, EU4Ocean Coalition Coordinator Olga Mashkina introduced the EU4Ocean activities and communities and gave the floor to EU4Ocean Thematic Group leads – focusing on ”Food from the Ocean”, ”Healthy and Clean Ocean” as well as ”Climate and Ocean”.
Building on the introductions of Day 1, Day 2 featured more interactivity, through the organisation of three parallel workshop sessions.
The 1st workshop focused on ”Bringing the Sea to the School in the Baltic” and was moderated by Vanessa Batista from Ciência Viva. During this session, participants built on the experiences of existing educational networks and outreach in activities, bringing together different actors to present their projects and exchange best practices. Speakers included representatives from the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, the European Blue School Network, the Baltic Sea Action Group Baltic Sea School project, the Baltic Quizz from the Gdynia Aquarium, the Baltic Sea Project, the City of Turku Environmental Education Centre, the European Atlas of the Seas, as well as the ‘I Live by the Sea’ project from ‘Today we Have’.
“We all have a role to play! (in strengthening Baltic Ocean Literacy)”
The 2nd interactive workshop focused on ”How to engage and empower the Youth in the Baltic Sea Region” and was moderated by Lisa Simone de Grunt from the SUBMARINER Network for Blue Growth. The session shared experiences among participants and discusses which topics are (and will be!) important for Youth engagement in the Baltic, and where efforts need to be consolidated. Participants discussed climate change and future job perspectives. Speakers included Youth4Ocean representatives, Friends of the Baltic Russia, the Blue Generation project, as well as from the Institute of Oceanology from the Polish Academy of Sciences IOPAN and the World Ocean Network. The session was a key opportunity for participants to discuss directly with both Baltic Youth and Baltic Ocean Professionals. They looked at opportunities for further engaging Baltic Youth in the activities of Ocean Professionals, and brainstormed on why this is not always as easy and straightforward as it may seem. The conversion also focused on concrete possibilities to further engage the Baltic Youth.
As three Baltic Youth representatives were also participating in the workshop, this proved to be an excellent opportunity to explore what works, and what doesn’t. What works included feeling empowered by being part of a community, contacting people directly and joining many events and institutional Youth Working Groups or special Youth Boards, and mixing events with education aspects. Among the challenges discussed in the event, is the difficulty to engage Baltic Youth because they speak a different ‘language’ and the fact that marine education is not often included in schools. Following up on this, participants agreed that people, sometimes, don’t know how to approach things and don’t feel like experts, and that sustainability does not mean the same thing in each sea basin. Looking forward, participants discussed that one should keep connecting youth and professionals bilaterally, plan for future ocean jobs, focus on the ‘So what!’ question - taking topics from a wider perspective.
The 3rd workshop focused on ”Engaging with wider public and businesses in the Baltic: the #MakeEUBlue Campaign in the Baltic Sea”. The session was moderated by Farah Obaidullah from Women4Oceans and it brought together different participants to discuss what they can do to support the #MakeBalticBlue campaign with their actions and the pre-conditions for success in terms of which actions are needed to make sure that the campaign hits its targets. Speakers showcased their experience with campaigns, not only with public society but also with industry and policy-makers. They included representatives from WWF Sweden, MarineFinland.fi, Baltic Environmental Forum, the John Nurminen Foundation, the CPMR Baltic Sea Commission, OCEANA, DANEurope and HELCOM.
Closing off the event, a dedicated training event took place – the ”Network of European Blue Schools in the Baltic: Teachers Training Workshop”. It was moderated by Evy Copejans from the European Marine Science Educators Association EMSEA. The training was designed for teachers who wish to become part of the Network of European Blue Schools. The main goal of the training session was to enlighten teachers on understanding why and what they should teach about the Baltic Sea, knowing how to become a successful European Blue School, and to inspire new school projects on the Baltic Sea. Speakers included representatives from the Gdynia Aquarium, IOPAN, EMODNET, as well as the Gothenburg marine biology laboratory. The session featured presentations and demos on the Baltic Sea by marine scientists and experienced educators who are renowned experts in their disciplines, small group discussions and professional guidance on how to become a European Blue School.
The recordings of all the sessions are available on the webpage, together with the presentations of the speakers and the pitches of the Baltic Young Ocean Advocates HERE. In addition, the first Day was webstreamed in its entirety and is available on the YouTube channel of EurOcean .