BalticRIM: A New European Project for the Integration of the Baltic Sea’s Underwater Cultural Heritage in Maritime Spatial Planning
With an intensifying economic use and exploitation of coastal and offshore areas, the underwater cultural heritage of the Baltic Sea is coming increasingly under threat. The necessity to integrate the latter into the planning process was acknowledged in the 2014 EU Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning and shall be implemented by the recently launched INTERREG-funded BalticRIM-Project (“BalticRIM” stands for Baltic Sea Region Integrated Maritime Cultural Heritage Management). The project provides a forum for archaeologists, spatial planners and other stakeholders, principally from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Poland and Russia, to devise and implement the integration of the underwater cultural heritage as a discrete “asset” in maritime spatial plans in order to ensure a sustainable in situ protection and site management. This paper will discuss the challenges faced in the early stage of the project, which requires a rethinking process from point-based find-clusters to polygon-based sectors, with the potential of identifying coherent underwater archaeological landscapes. Additionally, strategies to bridge data gaps by predictive modelling and by the use of environmental and geomorphological proxy data will be addressed, illustrated by case studies. Within the framework of the project, each country/state has defined pilot regions for the planning case. Additionally, management areas were designated to test cross-border cooperation cases and to actively explore cross-sectoral synergy effects with other stakeholders, primarily from the nature protection, scuba diving and tourism sectors. The tangible outcome of the project will be maritime spatial plans with designated archaeological areas, albeit these will not be ultimate, as planning is a continuous process. Therefore, more importantly perhaps, the BalticRIM-Project has the potential to set impulses in the way(s) in which the underwater cultural heritage can be integrated into maritime spatial planning, and can thereby become an exemplary case for future implementation in other parts of Europe and the world.