WMU Forum Held at Almedalen Week 2014

Almedalen Week is an annual event that began in 1968 when Olof Palme, then prime minister of Sweden, made a speech from the back of a lorry at Almedalen park in Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland. Over the years, Almedalen Week has evolved into Sweden’s largest political meeting and is renowned for openness and democracy providing a platform for open discussions and presentations on current topics.

For 2014, WMU arranged a forum on 30 June at the Maritime Forum Event, Maritim Mötesplats, entitled “Global Environmental and Safety Issues of Maritime Transport: Is There Any Progress?” WMU Professor, Olof Lindén, opened the session with an introduction to WMU that included recent developments in maritime research such as the opportunities that e-navigation provides for monitoring of shipping activities and environmental management.  He noted that despite significant improvements in the maritime world such as greatly diminished oil spills, many environmental management challenges remain including air pollution, hull fouling, invasive species, underwater noise, and ship strikes to marine mammals.

The issue of ship strikes was discussed further by WMU Research Assistant and PhD Candidate, Annukka Pekkarinen. It was emphasized that quick action is needed since certain endangered whale populations cannot withstand the additional mortality caused by increasing shipping activities in their feeding and breeding areas.

Plastic waste and oceans were the topic of focus for Carl-Gustav Lundin, Director of the Global Marine and Polar Programme for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), who emphasized the importance of this rather recently revealed threat circulating in marine food chains. Further, Mattias Rust, Conservation Officer for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), made a presentation about Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs) including Sweden’s goal to increase protection of their PSSAs from 6.5 to 10 percent. Based on the increase in human activities that influence our oceans, the question arose if 10 percent is sufficient.

WMU Associate Professor, Yoshinobu Takei, addressed the issue of Arctic governance and how the Arctic Council and IMO are working together to ensure that increased shipping in the Arctic is safe and well managed. As topics for discussion he raised issues Sweden faces in terms of the potential conflicts of being an EU member state as well as an Arctic Council member state, and the controversial involvement of non-Arctic states in the governance of the marine Arctic.

After the presentations concluded, the floor was turned over to a panel comprised of members of the Swedish parliament including Annicka Engblom, Moderata Samlingspartiet (the Moderate Coalition Party); Annelie Enochson, Kristdemokraterna (Swedish Christian Democratic);  Staffan Danielsson, Centerpartiet (Centre Party); Jan-Olof Larsson, Socialdemokraterna (Swedish Social Democratic Party); Jessica Rosencrantz, Moderata Samlingspartiet (the Moderate Coalition Party); and Lars Tysklind, Folkpartiet (Swedish Liberal People's Party).

The panel’s concerns focused mainly on Sweden’s PSSAs and the issue of microplastics due to their impact on Sweden’s coastline and the individuals who populate it. Annicka Engblom (Moderata Samlingspartiet ) was particularly interested in Arctic cooperation and Sweden’s role in the work of the Arctic Council. All panelists acknowledged that Sweden’s economy is heavily dependent on shipping and that ensuring the future of Sweden's seafaring industry is relevant to all political parties.  The panel was in further agreement that although ship strikes, arctic shipping, and marine littering from ships tend to take place far from the borders of Sweden, actions should be taken to diminish the negative impact of these issues.  

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