This measure is aimed at protecting biotopes that are essential for the functionality of the ecosystems and for ecosystem services (they are here referred to as key habitats). This will be achieved by improving the knowledge base about key habitats and by promoting observing these habitats in complementing the network of protected areas, in zoning and with environmental and water permit protocols.
For the functionality of ecosystems and for ecosystem services, the most important key habitats are fish spawning areas, bladder wrack and red algae communities and common eelgrass fields. If key habitats deteriorate, the effects are reflected more gravely on the surrounding ecosystem and ecosystem services.
Various measures implemented in water or land areas can endanger and dangerously alter underwater key habitats in the sea. According to the Water Act, water management projects may not cause dangerous alterations to nature or its processes, and they may not cause the deterioration of water bodies nor damage or harm fish populations. The Environmental Protection Act regulates activities that can cause damage and harm the nature and its functions, for example. Human activities causing harm to aquatic environments and nature are regulated with permit processes according to the Water Act and the Environmental Protection Act. There is insufficient information about the areas where marine key habitats lie, and the information might not be accessible. To enhance the protection of key habitats, there should be more information and this information should be made easily accessible to zoning and permit authorities.
This measure produces information in the VELMU programme about the locations of key marine habitats that are important functionally and for the ecosystem services, and this information is made easily accessible to authorities granting water permits and environmental permits. The key habitats should be presented as locations in a map service. For this measure, the VELMU programme should be extended until after 2015.
Information production and systematization will also be useful for zoning and marine area planning. The measure should also be aimed at researching how the key habitat protection goals are considered at present in water and environmental permits and whether the permit conditions are sufficient. If necessary, guidelines and laws governing the granting of water and environmental permits are amended to better take key habitats into account.
Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry