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Norway supports establishment of marine protected areas in Antarctica

‘Norway supports the establishment of a Marine Protected Area in the Weddell Sea, as well as the establishment of MPAs in other parts of Antarctica. It is not correct that Norway voted against a proposal on protection of the Weddell Sea, as some people have claimed,’ said Audun Halvorsen, State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Decisions made by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) are based on consensus. This means that proposals are not voted on, but that the members work towards agreement through dialogue and negotiation. Norway plays an active role in CCAMLR, and has consistently sought to find good solutions in the international cooperation on Antarctic issues.

For example, Norway helped to ensure the establishment of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Ross Sea in 2016, the largest in the world to date. It is crucial for Norway that conservation measures have a sound scientific basis, and that they contribute to sustainable management of resources and long-term protection of vulnerable ecosystems.

‘It was clear at an early stage of this year’s CCAMLR meeting that it would not be possible to reach consensus on the Weddell Sea. With a view to breaking the deadlock and promoting agreement, Norway put forward a proposal on the protection of the western parts of the Weddell Sea, which could be adopted straight away, while the parties continued to work on conservation measures for the eastern parts. This proposal was presented with the full support of the EU, and had been drawn up in close dialogue with the EU. It was welcomed by the whole Commission,’ said Mr Halvorsen.

Norway aims to act as a bridge-builder in the ongoing work to ensure sound management of the ecosystems and marine resources in Antarctica. For several years, Norway has pointed out that the EU’s proposal is based on a method that requires a large amount of scientific data. So far, little research has been carried out in the eastern areas, and there has not been much fisheries activity.

‘We have limited knowledge about the eastern parts of the Weddell Sea. The specific conservation measures set out in the EU proposal do not take this into account. This means that we would risk implementing measures that are neither well targeted nor effective. It is therefore positive that the members of the CCAMLR welcomed the Norwegian proposal. This gives us a starting point from which we can work towards measures that we are confident will promote sustainable management and effective protection of the ecosystems in this part of Antarctica. The process Norway has proposed is based on expert advice from the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research and the Norwegian Polar Institute,’ said Mr Halvorsen.

Norway’s new research vessel, Kronprins Haakon will be sailing in the Southern Ocean this winter on an extensive research expedition, during which it will collect data that will be relevant for the work on MPAs.

In the time ahead, Norway will work closely with the EU, Germany and other members of the CCAMLR with a view to reaching consensus on the establishment of an MPA in the Weddell Sea in the next few years.

‘Norway is giving high priority to the international cooperation in Antarctica. We are taking active part in the various processes to transform proposals into consensus decisions and concrete results, and basing these efforts on sound scientific knowledge. In addition to close cooperation with all the other members of CCAMLR, the Norwegian authorities have also had a constructive dialogue with NGOs and civil society. Effective protection requires professional integrity from all parties involved and sound scientific knowledge,’ said Mr Halvorsen.

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