Eutrophication in the Baltic Sea: our first forum to bring science to local policy

Tara Europa Lab in Tallinn, Estonia. Credit: Anne-Kristell Jouan, Fondation Tara Ocean 

In July, we joined our partners in Tallinn, Estonia, to promote science-to-policy dialogue about local marine challenges 

Tallinn, Estonia, is the first of eight cities selected to host a Tara Europa Lab: a series of science-to-policy events that seek to address regional marine challenges. Typically, these events are closed, round-table discussions that connect scientists with local political decision makers and NGOs to consider how scientific findings could be harnessed to meet the needs of society. 

The first Tara Europa Lab focused on eutrophication, a major challenge across Estonia and the Baltic Sea, often caused by leakage of pollutants from agricultural activities. The result is an excess of nutrients leading to a boom in plant or algal growth and major changes in the marine ecosystem and environment.

Coordinated by the Tara Ocean Foundation within the framework of BIOcean5D and BlueRemediomics, and in partnership with TREC, the event connected scientists with regional stakeholders to discuss how results from these projects can be used to support initiatives and solutions to eutrophication. 

Our colleague at the Tara Ocean Foundation, Martin Alessandrini, organised the science-to-policy workshop. We caught up with him to find out more.

Why do we need to do events like the Tara Europa Lab?

These events connect us to the question of ‘why’ we are doing science. We’re no longer organising expeditions just for naturalistic inventory purposes – it’s about how science can bring an answer to issues that population and decision makers have now been trying to solve for more than fifty years.

Why should we use science to inform policy?

Science is not an opinion; it is a set of facts that we need to make understandable for decision makers to base policies on. Given the global context, we need efficient actions to address global change. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports mention, the best way to do so is to go toward science-based decisions.

What was your highlight from the Tallinn Tara Europa Lab?

The round-table dialogue. It is really flattering to see how much interest our speakers have shown to our expedition. Jonaas Plaan, who’s part of the Estonian Fund for Nature, actually went to visit Tara the day after. This Tara Europa Lab really embodied how our partners’ science will contribute to society in the years to come.

The Tara schooner continues to traverse the European coastline along the TREC expedition route. Keep up to date and find opportunities to visit when it’s docked in different cities, in this interactive map

The next major stopover with local science-to-policy dialogue will be in Galway in September.