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Working Group: Coastal culture and maritime heritage

Background and justification

The Baltic Sea has throughout history connected the people around it. It has been the main traffic artery in the region and an important economic base through trade, fishing, and in the coastal region agriculture and industry. For these reasons coastal culture in our countries still show important similarities, essential for understanding our common identity and history.

The coastal culture is however threatened, not only by the crisis in the traditional coastal industries, but also by the pressure of recreational activity. The coastal areas are probably the most rapidly changing environments today. Still its cultural environment is a neglected topic, both in national preservation policies and in national and international coastal and sectional policies.

A special problem exists in the coastal areas of the former Soviet Republics. Traditional trades like fishing and shipping were for different reasons prohibited and the cultural continuity was broken. It is vital that intense attempts are made to bridge this 50-year break by actions documenting the tangible and intangible heritage still existing in the area.

The care of buildings, boats, artefacts and landscapes largely depend on the existence of a resident population. As the traditional trades lose their importance or profitability, a sustainable use of the resources calls for partly new economic strategies. Often tourism is mentioned as an important source of income, but it must be treated with caution in order not to threaten the natural and cultural values that it benefits from. Nor must the environmental aspects be forgotten, as polluted water and air pose serious threats in parts of the region.

It is important to realise that heritage specialists can not preserve the coastal culture only. A positive development is for its future dependant on an active co-operation between all the organisations, authorities and ministries dealing with coastal areas in different ways and where physical planning, claim of land, development pressure etc. are important tasks to consider.


  • We find it essential that coastal culture is made more visible, and that it is further protected and developed in all of its diversity by identifying and describing the common assets, problems and potential.
  • As depopulation poses a serious threat to long term heritage protection, we stress the importance of strategic co-operation between authorities and others in order to facilitate a sustainable use of the region, including a diversified economy and partly traditional trades.
  • Another important field is documentation and information on the cultural values in the region in order to promote development and increase understanding and awareness of its importance. This work can also generate economic contributions through cultural tourism and foster a responsible approach to development and necessary changes.

Associated actions

  • A research project and exhibition on the Baltic’s importance as a commercial area during the last 1000 years.
  • Documentation of traditional boats in the Nordic and Baltic region.
  • Support and broaden the Estonian - Norwegian lighthouse project. Planned and ongoing events
  • The trade and boat documentation projects commence with research conferences with a broad range of researchers from the Baltic Sea region, including universities, museums and other relevant professional institutions. Thereafter a project organisation is established, working out ideas, timetable and budgets etc. The final results are to be presented as publications and travelling exhibitions shown in the countries involved.
  • The lighthouse project has already started in Norway and Estonia. On their initiative an invitation to other interested countries should be sent out and the participants should plan the further work.
  • The boat documentation project already initiated by Sweden.

Se also:
Baltic Lights - a Guarantee of Safe Passage.

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