Cockles, Herring, and Eel Grass Weigh in on Malmö’s Nyhamnen Development

If there was legislation that prevented the construction of high buildings along the edge of the water, local eel grass would have a much better chance of making a living in the post-industrial waters. Or perhaps if there were a charter for new occupants of the harbor, that outlines the presence and well-being of the water’s non-human creatures, residents might be better equipped to look out for their aquatic neighbors. Maybe an outpost for monitoring Baltic cod fishing on the harbor could help prevent illegal fishing of the fish that today faces extinction.

These are just a couple of the proposed plans that would help the Nyhamnen development to take care of the city’s coastal life. Not offered by the land developers, nor the city, but by a class of science students from the Malmö Latinskola gymnasium representing the different individual species that inhabit the city’s shores.

Through the Ocean Care workshop, Feral Malmö and Naturum Öresund worked with these students to become more acquainted with Malmö’s marine community, from the American Comb Jellyfish to the Baltic Cod. With each student speaking for a common character of the sea, the class was given the opportunity to present ideas to create a more just social-ecological community of human and non-human harbor residents. 

In its current proposal, the Nyhamnen development will be built atop a now defunct section of Malmö’s post-industrial harbor for real estate and commercial enterprise—a companion to the Västra Hamnen neighborhood. 

Today, the interior waters of the harbor are currently filled with leftover industrial sludge. In order to rehabilitate the waters there in some way, the new development will see the interior basins capped with four meters of fresh sediment. In addition to this capping, a couple of small islands will be built up out of the harbor, and a new waterway will be made through a section of the harbor. Capping the harbor floor will ensure that any new creatures that might seek to inhabitat these spaces will not be exposed to the toxic sediment below, even if they burrow into the floor. 

Naturum Öresund has also proposed the introduction of bladderwrack algae to the harbor area. Being a foundation for marine ecology in the Öresund, the bladderwrack would provide habitat, nutrition, and oxygen to a great multitude of species, and would lay the groundwork for a new ecological community and cleaner waters in these harbor areas. With the potential of new species finding their way to the harbor the Latinskola students were invited to think of ways to adapt the harbor for the new community. 

In the first part of the ocean care workshop, each student was paired with a different species group or an “ocean actor.” The green crab, phytoplankton, the comb jelly, the cod—sixteen different actors in all that compose the current, post-industrial state of the Öresund were present in the decision making process. This included both local species that have been here for as long as anyone can remember as well as global species that have been introduced more recently, mostly by shipping industries. In the framework of the workshop, four groups of four species were put together, each group was then tasked to implement a policy or design to bolster the health of their social-ecological community. 

Various tools were used to help the students better identify with their non-human actors: firstly, each species had its own story card which gave some background information about the relationship the creature has to the sea, the city, and to the other species around it. In addition to this, the students were given access to the Naturum Öresund center which holds an abundant amount of information about the many species that inhabit the coastal waters. While resident marine biologist Alexander Cammaroto also helped the students research the fish, crustaceans, plankton and algae. They were also invited to use their phone and books as additional resources.

    Before the students came together to develop a coastal program for their ocean actor, the class walked along the beach to maybe see some of the species they were speaking for but also to observe the physical places where urban development meets the ocean.

Finally, an array of new ideas were proposed, in various forms, for the Nyhamnen project. One group, representing the bladderwrack, the broadnosed pipefish, the black round goby, and the amphipoda proposed a number of transparent floating installations for the new harbor development. Its primary use would be to provide bladderwrack seaweed more surface area to attach to in the harbor, and in turn provide added habitats for other species. On the surface, a transparent surface would allow Malmö residents to look down upon the algae structures and glimpse the teeming ecosystem they facilitate.

A diverse array of ideas were offered but one of the most challenging aspects of this workshop was finding a way to address the issue of globalized species. Mud crabs, Goby, and the American Comb Jelly, all species that were introduced by trade ships and managed to occupy a part of the local ecosystem, were treated largely with familiar methods of capture and kill. Though in the case of the Mud crab, one provocative proposal suggested that the mud crab be caught or lured into a pipeline that would put them in a temporary captivity. The mud crab would then eventually be ferried back to their home waters. 

The final presentations by the student groups showed that there remains a great many ideas that could be implemented to make the harbor area a more suitable habitat for the many species living along the coast. And there are many challenging questions to consider when we look at habitats from a multispecies perspective. 

Certainly, as Malmö continues to reorient the post-industrial city in the climate crisis, and through global mass extinction, the project serves as a demonstration of how more people, given a few tools, can participate in redefining the city as a space of social-ecology. That is beneficial to humans and non-humans alike. 

Workshop by:
Feral Malmö

In Participation with
Naturum Öresund &
Malmö Latinskola as a part of UN Day