Ladies and gentlemen, It is a great pleasure for me to present the opening address of this conference. A conference focusing on the global challenges facing marine regions is a major undertaking, since the subject is so diverse, and yet so important for human development and prosperity. Clearly, Fridtjof Nansen himself realised the importance of marine regions. Indeed, he was central to the development of scientific study in the Barents Sea. Johan Hjort and Nansen discussed marine science with Nikolai Mikhailovich Knipovich more than one hundred years ago. Professor Knipovich had come to Norway on the maiden voyage of the world’s first vessel specially equipped for fisheries science, the “Andreij Pervozvonnyj”, a vessel which had been built in order to extend the analysis of the fish stocks that Knipovich had already started in the Barents Sea.
The topics of this conference include fishing on the High Seas, maritime transport issues, climate change and biodiversity, IUU fishing, regional cooperation and pollution. So, a wide variety of subject matter indeed, but they are all nonetheless interconnected and form part of what we know as ocean governance. As a large coastal state, Norway takes its role here seriously.
One fundamental characteristic of the oceans is motion - the sea is constantly moving. Whether we are talking about ships, fish or water, all move in various directions. Ships need safe and secure shipping lanes, many fish are migratory, while the movement of the water itself creates challenges when pollution strikes.
I believe that the nexus of all of the topics of this conference is the fact that no single country can deal with these challenges alone. In my opinion, cooperation across disciplines and open dialogue between old and new partners are, and will be, important in order to achieve progress on issues such as IUU fishing, sustainable management of the oceans and pollution. I firmly believe that the global nature of threats and challenges to the security, safety and environment of the oceans can only be effectively tackled through international cooperation and coordination.
One of the major challenges, IUU fishing, is an activity that poses a threat to the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development. The negative effects of IUU fishing on coastal states and communities can be seen throughout the world, and developing countries are especially hurt, since IUU fishing deprives these communities of an important opportunity to develop their economies. Markets, small and large, are severely impacted by the availability of IUU catch.
IUU fishing leads to higher fish mortality, and quotas for regulated fishing are consequently reduced - legal fishing is hurt, as are employment prospects in coastal communities.
When fish are transported and landed thousands of miles away from where they are caught, it is imperative, for the purposes of sustainable management, that the port state ensures that the vessel's flag state guarantees that the catch was harvested sustainably. Norway has taken a global initiative through the UN and the FAO to make this happen.
During this year’s United Nations Informal Consultative Process on the Law of the Sea, some countries stated that, in their experience, these illegal fishing activities were typically operated by transnational criminal organisations. I sympathise with this view and support the efforts to encourage an in-depth dialogue on this issue with the relevant stakeholders at a national and international level.
Another challenge is climate change. Meteorological and oceanographic data show that climate change, as elsewhere, is increasingly evident in our marine environment;
• the sea temperature is rising
• the sea level may rise
• Arctic sea ice is likely to disappear
• weather patterns will become more extreme
Climate change will affect the physical, biological and biochemical nature of the oceans. For example, if coastal stocks move to more open waters, this will obviously have consequences for smaller fishing vessels. This in turn may lead to unstable supplies to the fish processing industry and consequently a reduction in employment. The specifics of climate change will become issues for fisheries, aquaculture and related industries along our coast. For us as politicians, the question of new management considerations will be substantial.
More extreme weather conditions may also affect the safety of seafarers and fishers and those who tend to fish farms.
Climate change will therefore affect people and businesses along the coast. The necessary adaptations will be costly for both businesses and individuals, in the shape of investments in equipment, training and marketing.
As climate change accelerates, but remains unpredictable in detail, marine policies and fisheries management must increasingly embrace adaptive approaches. These will have important implications for decision making and its scientific underpinning, and steps have already been taken to prepare the fisheries management authorities for the coming implications of climate change
For hundreds of years, Norway has been a nation of shipping, fishing and trade. The development of maritime infrastructure, including sea ports, aids to navigation, pilot services and fairways, has been an important factor in the country's progress as a maritime nation. Globalisation and the ensuing demand for transport by sea of ever-increasing volumes of goods necessitate a balance between freedom of navigation on the one hand, and sustainable protection of the marine environment on the other.
Complete and accessible information about the North Atlantic and the Barents Sea will be of vital importance for emergency response purposes and for the regulation of shipping, detecting IUU fishing activities, as well as for dealing with environmental and energy issues. In Norway, we have therefore started to work on developing an integrated surveillance system for the High North, collating data on the marine environment and on maritime activities in this region in an even more systematic way than previously.
In order to improve safety at sea and oil-spill response, we have established a system of mandatory traffic separation schemes, totalling some 560 nautical miles, from eastern Finnmark to the southern tip of the Lofoten islands. This scheme is located outside of Norway's northern territorial waters. In the light of our experiences here, the government is considering establishing similar schemes along other parts of our coast. Cooperation with other nations affected and international organisations will of course be vital in this work.
The new challenges for sustainable use of the oceans, whether relating to transport, the fight against IUU fishing or environmental protection, may necessitate the development of new technologies to meet future monitoring needs. Accordingly, we are participating actively in the development of both AIS and the new Long Range Identification and Tracking system (LRIT) technology, within IMO and the European Maritime Safety Agency. The LRIT system will, as an example, have huge benefits when monitoring shipping activities and potential pollution, as well as tracking specific blacklisted IUU vessels to a distance of up to 1000 nautical miles off the Norwegian coast.
The challenges which face marine regions of the world are substantial, but they are within our grasp, and through international, regional and local cooperation, they can be overcome.
In closing, I would especially like to thank the Fridtjof Nansen Institute for hosting this conference. The programme is a fascinating one, and I think it makes for a worthy celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Fridtjof Nansen Institute. I congratulate the Institute on its 50th anniversary and offer my best wishes for another 50 years of scientific endeavour, and, more immediately, I wish you all the best of luck with the seminar,
Thank you for your kind attention.