Speech/statement | Date: 2015-02-24 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
'We want healthy oceans for the sake of future generations, and we are strongly committed to conserving the unique Antarctic environment. I look forward to working with Australia on these crucial matters in the years ahead', said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende in his speech at Australia National Maritime Museum.
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Ladies and gentlemen
We Norwegians may be a long way from our home country when we venture far into the southern hemisphere, thousands of kilometres from our own shores.
And yet, Antarctica has been regularly visited by Norwegians since these enormous areas were discovered almost 200 years ago.
I am therefore grateful for this opportunity to talk about Norway as a polar nation. Both in the north and in the south. And with interests in – and knowledge about – both the Arctic and the Antarctic.
To Norwegians, these regions are closely associated with the sea and marine resources. Healthy oceans are therefore of vital importance to us, a priority I know we share with Australia.
The search for marine resources was the main reason why Europeans sailed to the Antarctic in the 1800s. But scientific research and the desire to explore the last unknown continent on earth were also important. Norwegians were at the forefront of this venture into the cold and unknown south.
In fact, it was a Norwegian, Carsten Borchgrevink, who headed the first expedition to spend a whole winter on the Antarctic continent, the British Southern Cross Expedition, from 1898 to 1900.
Roald Amundsen made world history
However, Roald Amundsen is the Norwegian who more than any other is associated with Antarctica. On 14 December 1911 he made world history when he reached the South Pole, after years of preparations.
Even today, 104 years later, Amundsen’s impressive achievement continues to inspire and impress polar explorers and ordinary people alike. The polar regions are important to Norwegian identity, and few others have contributed more to this than Roald Amundsen.
There is a need for better management of our oceans. The impact of the oceans on the wellbeing of our planet and its population, be it in coastal or land-locked countries, can hardly be overestimated.
To Australia and Norway, two countries with vast sea areas under our jurisdictions, this is obvious.
We should not forget that to billions of people, and not only in coastal states, seafood is a key source of protein. As the world population is still growing – we have already reached 7 billion and may reach 9 billion by 2050 – the importance of our oceans is bound to increase.
At the same time, we see that our oceans are under threat from unsustainable fishing, pollution and climate change.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), many of the world’s most important fish stocks are overfished or depleted.
In coastal areas and in the high seas alike, we see that pollution, such as plastic waste, has become a global, man-made catastrophe. In some places, there are huge areas of floating waste, which are having an extremely harmful impact on marine life.
On a global scale, high emissions of greenhouse gases are leading to a warmer climate, with potentially devastating effects for life in the polar regions.
Climate change also causes seawater to absorb more CO₂, which in turn leads to ocean acidification. As you are well aware, marine scientists are deeply concerned that ocean acidification may have negative consequences for Australia’s coral reefs.
Coexistens between petroleum industri and fisheries
To Norway, the sea is of vital importance. More than three quarters of our export earnings originate from the sea and from coastal-based activities. We extract oil and gas from beneath the seabed, and from the sea itself we harvest living marine resources.
Decades of experience have shown that it is perfectly possible for the petroleum industry and our fisheries to coexist.
But, and what I am about to say is important: this has not happened by itself. Right from the beginning, we adopted comprehensive measures to prevent pollution and oil spills.
Today this way of thinking is central to our system of integrated management plans for sea areas. These plans are a powerful tool for ensuring that the exploitation of resources in the marine environment is never decoupled from environmental concerns.
The integrated management plans, which draw on extensive scientific knowledge, provide the basis for a management regime that is designed to prevent the pressures on ecosystems from exceeding sustainable levels.
A warmer climate may eventually allow the energy industry to move further north. But I can assure you that high environmental standards will continue to be rigorously maintained.
Living marine resources could last for ever
Eventually, the non-renewable energy resources will be exhausted. By contrast, the living marine resources will continue to be there. If we protect them and manage them carefully, they could last for ever.
How can we achieve this?
Firstly, sustainability must be the governing principle of fisheries management. Harmful practices, such as discards of fish at sea, must be prohibited. In Norway we have had a ban on this for years.
There must also be effective measures for controlling and monitoring . In our own waters, the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing has been greatly reduced. This is one of the reasons why our fisheries management system is regarded as one of the best in the world.
Regrettably, the problem of illegal fishing persists in many parts of the world. We must therefore continue to address it.
Secondly, our management decisions must be based on the best available scientific knowledge. For instance when we are setting fish quotas or designing conservation areas.
In the case of Norway, I am proud to say that we have first-rate researchers who are greatly enhancing our understanding of marine life. Their efforts are crucial for this ecosystem-based management of our living marine resources.
Thirdly, if the oceans are to be healthier in the future, they need to be given a higher place on the international agenda. This requires the involvement of the international community.
It is only through joint efforts that we can hope to address problems such as overfishing, climate change, and water-borne pollution.
Norway has long experience of the sustainable management of marine resources and is strongly committed to the goal of healthier oceans. We stand ready to share our knowledge and engage in binding international cooperation.
In the future, we will be turning to the oceans for many of our resources.
We are already tapping into their vast potential, but in the years to come we must find new and sustainable ways of doing so.
We must draw on our skills and experience, coupled with new scientific insights, to create future-oriented industries. To make this possible, cooperation between private companies, the research community and the public sector will be vital.
The Antarctic is truly unique. No other place on earth is so barren and inhospitable. Despite this, its sea areas and coastal regions can be teeming with life.
At the same time, the Antarctic ecosystems are vulnerable to human activity. It is therefore of paramount importance that international conventions acknowledge Antarctica’s uniqueness. We must firmly uphold the need to conserve its wildlife and special characteristics.
Environmental concerns are one pillar of our Antarctic engagement. This was why Norway was an enthusiastic supporter of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty of 1991, a milestone in Antarctic cooperation.
Given the world’s need for minerals, it was no small feat that the involved countries managed to decide that Antarctica should be a ‘natural reserve, devoted to peace and science’.
We look forward to celebrating the Protocol’s 25th anniversary together with Australia and the other Treaty Parties next year.
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) plays an important role in the management of the Antarctic environment.
The Commission’s achievements show that the sound use of marine resources is compatible with conservation objectives, as long as resource management is based on scientific knowledge and advice.
I am pleased that Norwegian scientists have made significant contributions to the Commission’s work. This has been very important for the sustainable management of many of the region’s rich resources, in particular krill and certain fish stocks.
Responsible management of krill is essential for the region’s whales, seals and penguins, which depend on this food source for their survival.
To Norwegian fishermen in Antarctic waters, the Commission’s management approach is far from new. In fact, it resembles the rules they comply with when they fish in Norwegian waters. For them this is not just a question of dealing with environmental concerns; they have learned long ago that it is in their own interest to take the state of the environment seriously. They know, better than most, that without proper conservation there can be no surplus to harvest.
Norway is committed to the development of a network of marine protected areas. Last year’s Commission meeting did bring us closer to finding common ground. However, it failed to reach consensus on the proposal of a marine protected area (or MPA) in the East Antarctic Region.
Polar nation in north and south
Norway will continue to work constructively within CCAMLR with a view to the establishment of marine protected areas that can ensure the long-term conservation of the Antarctic natural environment.
As a polar nation in both the north and the south, Norway will continue to play an active role in promoting protection of the unique Antarctic environment.
Later this year, the Norwegian Government will present a white paper on our Antarctic policy, which clearly demonstrates the importance we attach to our polar interests and responsibilities in the south.
I am not divulging any secrets by saying that the white paper will reflect Norway’s strong commitment to international cooperation under the Antarctic Treaty System.
In conclusion, as signatory parties to the Antarctic Treaty, Norway and Australia have a long history of cooperation.
Our two countries have many common interests when it comes to both ocean management in general and the Antarctic more specifically.
We want healthy oceans for the sake of future generations, and we are strongly committed to conserving the unique Antarctic environment.
I look forward to working with Australia on these crucial matters in the years ahead.