Under the projects, we have highlighted the most important cross-border activities with clearly defined goals, time frames and resources.

A more detailed list of all projects of the Estonian Marine Institute can be found in the Estonian Research Information System ETIS.

Increasing capacity of environmental protection to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem performance in the Gulf of Finland under multiple human uses and climate change pressure (ADRIENNE)

Principal investigator: Jonne Kotta,
Duration: 01.04.2019-31.03.2022
Project type: R&D Project
Total funding: 297 000,00 EUR
Financier: Eesti-Vene piiriülese koostöö programm 2014-2020, EIC Environmental program

Overall objective of the project is to build a comprehensive dataset and an efficient tool for maritime spatial planners and resource managers with a capability of assessing interactive responses of various human-induced stressors on the Gulf of Finland ecosystem under different nutrient load management and climate change scenarios and thereby improving the efficacy of planning and management of sea areas as well as identifying risks and appropriate measures to cope with cumulative pressure of human uses. In order to achieve these goals, we will combine novel spatial modelling products of species, habitats and fishery-related ecosystem services with expert-based assessment of synergistic effects of human uses on the biota and vice versa. This knowledge is summarized in a GIS portal with a capability of assessing interactive responses of various human-induced stressors on the Gulf of Finland ecosystem under different human-induced nutrient loading and climate change scenarios. The established Assessment Portal is unique as it is built on harmonized methodologies, big data with high scientific quality and novel machine learning modelling framework. From the user side, however, it is simple and highly self-intuitive to use. The used methodologies involve analyses of the status and trends of different sectors, focusing on the important economic drivers and pressures in the Gulf of Finland area. As such, the project helps to find new ways to mitigate risks of intensified human uses and climate change in the fragile and valuable ecosystem of the Gulf of Finland. Moreover, by ensuring an effective transboundary engagement of key stakeholders through all our activities, the project fosters multidisciplinary co-operation and communication in Russia, Estonia and Finland concerning issues related to the protection of marine nature and human activities in the Gulf of Finland region.

Information: ETIS


Principal investigator: Elor Sepp,
Duration: 01.01.2024–31.12.2026
Project type: R&D Project
Financier: The Estonia-Latvia Programme (Interreg)
Total funding: 472 964 EUR
Information: ETIS

Autonomous surface vehicle HELI

Estonia and Latvia are jointly responsible for the sustainable management of the common natural resources of the Gulf of Riga and its ecosystem. Therefore only the close cooperation and joint effort of the two countries can lead to the eligible state of the ecosystem and its services in the Gulf of Riga.

The project aims at the substantial improvement of the present management of common fisheries resources of the Gulf of Riga in order to safeguard the sustainable functioning of the ecosystem of the gulf and its services for the benefit of the coastal communities of both Latvia and Estonia. The goal is to be achieved by the introduction and development of an unmanned surface vehicle (USV), as a new survey platform in the Gulf of Riga ecosystem surveys. This technological upgrade allows for overcoming a number of methodological shortcomings in the present fisheries research. This also allows the substantial reduction of the use of conventional research vessels and thus significantly cuts down on survey costs. Reduction of the costs of sea surveys would allow the increase of the extent (both in terms of time and space), of the surveys of the fish communities and in this way to an essential increase in the amount of collected scientific information, serving as a basis for the management decisions. The high-quality management decisions are expected to enhance the economic and social welfare of the fisheries communities around the Gulf of Riga.

The expected joint implementation of this novel technology by both countries is planned to be fully transparent which would allow the transfer of the obtained knowledge in the scientific and fisheries communities of both Estonia and Latvia. In a wider sense, the project outcome will feed into the general knowledge of ecosystem management across the whole Baltic Sea and beyond.

Logo Estonia - Latvia RGB Color-01

Baltic Sustainable Boating 2030 - Making leisure boating in the Baltic Sea fit for the post-pandemic boating tourism market.

Contact: Robert
Project type: R&D project
Funding program:
Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme
72 576 EUR
Information: ETIS

With more than 1.000 leisure boat harbours and its unique set of varied part-destinations (e.g. Swedish archipelago, Polish coastline etc.), the Baltic Sea is an attractive boating region for sailors and motor boaters from both littoral and far away countries. Despite its high class infrastructure and attractive destination profile that combines diverse nature & culture, however, it still lags behind international competitors (in particular: Mediterranean) in tapping the economic potentials of leisure boating.

BaltSusBoating 2030 initiates a strategic cooperation at BSR level for developing the Baltic Sea into a sustainable boating destination, and to jointly promote it towards international boaters. Supported by CBSS, the main umbrella organisations & boating tourism actors team up to jointly define goals and measures for a collaborative destination development and marketing until 2030. This process includes (a) the elaboration of a sustainability roadmap, (b) exchange & peer learning measures, (c) dialogue with policy makers and (d) the iterative development of a joint destination development and marketing strategy for Baltic Sea until 2030. Thus, the project will lay the foundations for making the most of opportunities on the post-pandemic boating tourism market and to make the Baltic Sea more competitive at the international level.

Contact: Kristiina Nõomaa,
Duration: 01.12.2021−31.01.2024
Project type: R&D Project
Total funding: 430 000 EUR

During the ongoing project, the impacts of invasive species were presented at various events and publications in 2022:

  1. A popular science programme on the potential uses of alien species:
  2. Introducing invasive species effects:

  1. In order to improve the methodology for assessing the distribution potential of the Harris mud crab (Rhithropanopeus harrisii), additional distribution data collection was started in the summer of 2022 (observations of local residents) and information on the alien species and its impacts was shared with the public:

ENG: Raport Harris mud crab sighting here.

Oral presentations at international conferences and meetings:

  1. Kotta, J.; Ojaveer, H.; Fetissov, M.; Orav-Kotta, H.; Lees, L.; Kõivupuu, A.; Szava-Kovats, R. 2022. Integrating ecological impacts of non-indigenous species within a cumulative effect assessment framework. NEOBIOTA 2022, 12th International Conference on Biological Invasions, Biological Invasions in a Changing World, Tartu, Estonia, 12–16 September 2022.
  2. Nõomaa, K.; Kotta, J.; Szava-Kovats, R.;: Herkül, K.; Eschbaum, R.; Vetemaa, M. 2022. Novel fish predator causes sustained changes in its prey populations. NEOBIOTA 2022, 12th International Conference on Biological Invasions, Biological Invasions in a Changing World, Tartu, Estonia, 12–16 September 2022
  3. Beleem, IB; Kotta, J.; Barboza FR. 2022. Temperature modulates the community-wide effects of an invasive mud crab in a key baltic sea macroalgal-dominated habitat. NEOBIOTA 2022, 12th International Conference on Biological Invasions, Biological Invasions in a Changing World, Tartu, Estonia, 12–16 September 2022
  4. Nõomaa, K. 2022. Round goby long-term impact on benthic communities. Presentaion at the Workshop on Stickleback and Round Goby in the Baltic Sea (WKSTARGATE). 22–25 august 2022
  5. Nõomaa, K. 2022. Understanding marine invasions - from the lab to the sea. Ettekanne konverentsil "Eesti Mereteadus 2022". 14. oktoober 2022

So far, during the project, two scientific articles have been published. The first is assessing the impact of round goby on the benthic communities of the Estonian coastal sea and the second is assessing the impact of alien species on ecosystem services:

  1. Nõomaa, K.; Kotta, J.; Szava-Kovats, R.; Herkül, K.; Hubel, K.; Eschbaum, R.; Vetemaa, M. 2022. Novel fish predator causes sustained changes in its prey populations. Frontiers in Marine Science, 9, 849878.

Ecosystems are simultaneously regulated by bottom-up (resources) and top-down forces (predators). However, because predator-prey interactions operate on spatial scales beyond the reach of manipulative experimentation, the actual roles of predators remain poorly understood. In ecosystems where predators are naturally absent, biological invasions provide a unique experiment to shed light on the large-scale and long-term effects of predators in the recipient ecosystem. We combined data from long-term benthic monitoring, environmental conditions, and a census of round goby population to identify changes in the dominant benthic bivalve population (Mytilus trossulus and Macoma balthica) following round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) invasion. This study demonstrates a substantial change in the food web, with earlier primarily bottom-up regulated communities facing strong top-down control effects. The introduction of a novel predator to a species-poor ecosystem substantially reduced dominant invertebrate populations in a large part of the study area, sometimes with a time lag of 1−3 years. In general, the effects were less in high productivity areas. In some cases, community recovery was observed but rarely to pre-invasion levels, raising the question of the ability of bivalve communities to act as a natural filter. This study demonstrates long-term trends in benthic communities and by excluding possible effects due to the changing environment provides more evidence that invasive species transform coastal ecosystems over time and space.

  1. Ojaveer, H., Einberg, H., Lehtiniemi, M., Outinen, O., Zaiko, A., Jelmert, A. and Kotta, J., 2023. Quantifying impacts of human pressures on ecosystem services: Effects of widespread non-indigenous species in the Baltic Sea. Science of The Total Environment, 858, p.159975.

In collaboration with the project's partner Anders Jelmert (IMR), a scientific article was published on the impact of alien species on ecosystem services. Ecosystem services (ES) are the benefits natural ecosystems provide to society, such as food provisioning, water supply, climate regulation and recreational benefits. Biological invasions are a major driver of global change, and several non-indigenous species (NIS) may alter key ecological feedbacks with ultimate consequences to ES, livelihoods and human wellbeing. Nonetheless, the effects of NIS on ES supply remain largely unquantified. Here we present the first quantitative case study assessing the impacts of widespread NIS on ES in the Baltic Sea, by developing and employing a robust and repeatable data-driven approach. All NIS with a sufficient knowledge base pose large and highly significant effects on ES, resulting on average 55 % change in the intensity of ES. Most impacts affected regulation services, concerning both abiotic and biotic realms, with little evidence on cultural and provisioning services. The methodology can be easily employed beyond the current study realm e.g. to better understand the roles of human pressures on ES in any ecosystem. Importantly, the study also identified major biases not only in the availability of taxonomic and sub-regional evidence, but also in the different study types employed to create the evidence base.

Ongoing work and activities

  1.  Studies and experiments on the common horseshoe crab (Rhithropanopeus harrisii)

In 2022, experiments were carried out to assess the differences in habitat preference and impacts on native Fucus vesiculosus communities of different subpopulations of the Harris mud crab (Rhithropanopeus harrisii) (Figure 1). Samples were collected from Estonia, Finland and Lithuania to identify genetic differences between subpopulations (Figure 2).

Hariliku rändkrabi katse

Figure 1. Experimental units to assess the ecosystem effects of subpopulations of the migratory crab in the Kõiguste field station.

(Rhithropanopeus genetics

Figure 2. Locations for genetics sampling of the Harris mud crab individuals in 2022.

In 2023, the laboratory analysis of the experimental and genetics samples will continue with specimens from subpopulations.

2. Writing a children's book on alien species

The production of a children's book on alien species is on track. The texts are in the final stages of preparation and the illustrations have been completed by Lennart Lennuk, zoologist at the Estonian Museum of Natural History (Figure 3, Figure 4).

Palaemon elegans Lennart Lennuk

Figure 3. Grass prawn (Palaemon elegans). Author: Lennart Lennuk

Evadne anonyx

Figure 4. Below the invasive species Evadne anonyx and above the native species Evadne nordmanni. Author: Lennart Lennuk

3. Assessing the CO2 sequestration potential of coastal marine habitats and restoring them.

In 2022, fieldwork and sampling were carried out to determine the carbon content of seabed vegetation communities. Samples were collected from seagrass communities (Prangli, Väinameri, Gulf of Riga) as well as from other higher plant communities. The carbon content was separately determined in the soil part of the assemblage and in the water column. The collected samples are currently being analysed. In the spring, additional samples will be collected from the same communities to get a seasonal aspect. In summer 2022, an experiment was carried out on the south coast of the island of Prangli to restore seagrass communities (Figure 5). For this purpose, eelgrass planting material was collected from a few kilometres away and eelgrass plants were planted in three different locations. In autumn 2022, a first series of observations was carried out - all sites had the planting material intact.

Zostera marina koosluste taastamise eksperiment 2022

Figure 5: Eelgrass (Zostera marina) restoration experiment in 2022 near the island of Prangli.

Next fieldworks are planned for May 2023.

KIK toetab
Iceland Liechtenstein Norway grants

Principal investigator: Anneliis Kõivupuu,
Duration: 21.06.2023–31.01.2027
Project type: R&D Project
Financier: Interreg Baltic Sea Region
Total funding: 376 160 EUR
Information: ETIS

OpenRisk II will provide an integrated, novel, science-based and user-oriented toolkit for risk management of potential accidental oil and HNS spills in the Baltic Sea, focusing on prevention, preparedness and response (PPR). It is based on the existing Norwegian AISyRISK platform, which will be adapted to the Baltic Sea environment through further enhancements such as analysis of near misses, the impact of winter navigation on accidental oil pollution, or the impact of pollution on endangered species. The AISyRISK platform is among the leading ones in the world and the planned cooperation between the Baltic Sea countries and the Norwegian experts offers good opportunities for both sides.

The new integrated toolbox will provide end-users (maritime authorities from across the Baltic Sea region) with risk-related information that will support harmonized decisionmaking in the field of oil and HNS spill risk management, both at national and Baltic Sea level. The toolbox will support the standardization of risk assessment processes for PPR accidental oil and HNS spills based on the ISO 31000:2018 standard. Baltic Sea risk reduction measures are a joint effort based on cross-border cooperation and will take time to implement. Pollution and its spread in the Baltic Sea is not confined to individual countries, but its control and elimination is also part of transnational cooperation.

The objective is to enable successful allocation of preventive measures, response resources and coordination activities between the relevant authorities of the Baltic Sea littoral states. It will be accessible and fully operational for maritime Baltic and HELCOM authorities and will enable harmonization of PPR deployment procedures for all Baltic Sea States. The results of the project will improve the quality of the decisions taken, both in the planning of activities and in the management of crisis situations (decision-makers are better informed and using the same basis for decision-making). As a result, the risk of downgrading due to oil spills in the Baltic Sea will be reduced.

All the OpenRisk II project partners are following:

Lead Partner Finnish Transport and Communication Agency (Traficom), Finland

Partner Norwegian Coastal Administration (Kystverket), Norway

Partner Northern Dimension Partnership of Transportation and Logistics (NDPTL) Secretariat

Partner Aalto University, Finland

Partner Technical University of Gdansk, Poland

Partner University of Tartu, Estonia

Partner University of Helsinki, Finland

OpenRisk II_Logo_Standard-medium

Principal investigator: Robert Aps,
Duration: 01.03.2023–28.02.2026
Project type: R&D Project
Total funding: 498 512 EUR
Financier: Interreg Central Baltic
Information: ETIS

The Re:Fish project addresses the problem of plastic pollution and ghost fishing in the Central Baltic Sea, starting with Sweden, Finland and Estonia as pilot areas. Lost passive fishing gear, gillnets in this case, cause unnecessary suffering to fish, birds, and marine mammals. Additionally, these nets contribute to pollution of both plastic and hazardous substances.

The aim of the project is to remove lost or abandoned fishing gear (in particular gillnets) from the coastal sea pilot areas by dredging. In Estonia, the pilot area of the project is the north-eastern part of the Gulf of Riga, Pärnu Bay, one of the largest coastal fishing areas in Estonia. Removing the nets from the sea is an additional contribution to improving the environmental status of the central Baltic Sea. In addition, the pilot areas of the project will focus on primarily locations where lost fishing accessories like lures, baits, hooks, lead weights, and fishing lines etc. can be found.

In addition to fishing gear lost at sea, the handling of fishing gear on land is also a common problem - nets are often left outdoors where they fragment and spread microplastics in the environment. The project will carry out a series of collection campaigns with the aim of getting rid of nets that are lying idle and have reached the end of their useful life. People will be given the opportunity to give away their nets free of charge. All nets collected from the marine and terrestrial environment will be assessed for their recyclability and the material collected will be recycled or reused accordingly.

Re:Fish also aims to inform relevant stakeholders (recreational fishers, NGOs, Universities, and authorities) to prevent problems related to abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear in the Baltic Sea fisheries. Re:Fish's most important target groups in Estonia are recreational coastal fishers. The project, which will involve stakeholders, will seek a range of solutions to the problems associated with coastal fishing. In addition, the project will also create a platform where project partners and actors/stakeholders in the national networks can participate in exchanges of experience and knowledge between the countries.


Doctoral defence: Gerli Albert "Carbon use strategies of macrophyte communities in the northeastern Baltic Sea: implications for a high CO2 environment"

Doctoral defence: Gerli Albert "Carbon use strategies of macrophyte communities in the northeastern Baltic Sea: implications for a high CO2 environment" On 27. Oct at 10.15 J. Liivi 2 - 127

Come to listen to short lectures by doctoral students and choose your favourite!

Teabetunni kaanefoto

­­­­­­­­From doctoral student to doctoral student: why and how to summarise your research in three minutes?