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The Open Ocean

Statement by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the Opportunities and Risks for the Ocean Economy-panel meeting in St. Petersburg, 9 April 2019.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg at Arctic Forum in St. Petersburg.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg at Arctic Forum in St. Petersburg. Credit: Trude Måseide/Office of the Prime Minister

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Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

We are all dependent on the oceans.

We are all part of the blue economy.

And our welfare and future prosperity depend on the health of the seas.

We must find a good balance between exploitation and protection of living marine resources.

The oceans provide us with jobs, food, energy, medicines and opportunities.

If managed wisely, the oceans will help us to fight poverty, build prosperity and create a healthy blue economy.

However, the oceans are under threat from several directions:  

  • the effects of climate change,
  • marine litter and pollution,
  • loss of habitats and biodiversity, and
  • overfishing 

We need to reduce the threats that undermine the potential of the oceans.

This is why I took the initiative to establish the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy.

The Panel is made up of serving heads of state and government from all continents.

Our goal is to advance a new understanding of the oceans that will help us both to protect the oceans and to optimise their value for humankind.

The Panel is studying science-based proposals for how ocean issues can be resolved.

We cooperate closely with ocean experts from a wide range of scientific disciplines, and with actors from the private sector and civil society.

We intend to deliver a report on the relationship between the oceans and the economy to the UN Ocean Conference in 2020.

In order to reach SDG 14, it is crucial that coastal states cooperate on the management of shared sea areas and shared marine resources.

The bilateral fisheries cooperation between Russia and Norway has a long history.

Our cooperation in the field of marine research was institutionalised in the 1950s, when we formalised a collaboration that had already been going on for 50 years. 

Based on joint scientific efforts, Norway and Russia have managed the fisheries resources in the Barents Sea in a sustainable manner for more than 40 years.

In the 1980s, we were concerned that this sea could become a dead zone, devoid of fish.

Today, we enjoy the most abundant cod stock in the world.

Norway has adopted and updated integrated management plans for the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea since 2006.

These plans provide a framework for value creation, while at the same time maintaining the productivity and diversity of marine ecosystems.

Integrated ocean management must be based on knowledge about the status and trends of marine ecosystems, the activities of marine industries, and their impact on the marine environment.

Russia and Norway share the Barents Sea marine ecosystems.

Cooperation is crucial to attain the best possible knowledge base for ecosystem-based and integrated management of the Barents Sea.

The cooperation in the Norwegian-Russian Environmental Commission on marine issues is therefore a high priority for Norway.

We are pleased that Russia is developing a legal basis for marine spatial planning.

I encourage Russia to continue its development of a pilot management plan for the Russian part of the Barents Sea.

Marine litter is a fast growing environmental concern.

Norway and Russia have a unique cooperation and unique knowledge of the marine environment in the Barents Sea.

We therefore have a good starting point now that we are joining forces to combat marine litter and plastics.

In the northern Barents Sea, the climate is warming faster than anywhere else, threatening Arctic species and ecosystems.

At the same time, shipping, fisheries and cruise tourism are on the rise.

To meet these challenges we need to act on several fronts.

First, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a matter of urgency, and speed up the transition to low-carbon solutions and technologies. Including in our ocean economies.

Second, we must limit pollution and pollution risks related to increasing maritime activities as new seaways open up.

And third, we must continue to develop and apply adaptive management strategies. 

This is the management tool for the future, as marine ecosystems and species are under pressure from the effects of climate change.

These are all tasks that would benefit from even closer Arctic and bilateral cooperation.

The Law of the Sea forms a natural basis for the close international cooperation we experience in the Arctic.

One example is the open dialogue between the coastal states to the central Arctic Ocean on their continental shelf submissions.

Norway and the other Arctic coastal states are committed to this process.

We have all made it clear that we will comply with the existing framework provided by the Law of the Sea.

All overlapping claims will be resolved in an orderly way.

Some people think there is a race for resources in the Arctic.

I do not agree.

This was demonstrated when the five coastal states to the central Arctic Ocean and five other fishing actors (China, the EU, Iceland, Japan and South Korea), recently agreed on a legally binding fisheries agreement.

This agreement prohibits unregulated fisheries and establishes a structure for scientific cooperation on the high seas of the central Arctic Ocean.

It is Norway's ambition to spearhead the global ocean agenda.

Russia and Norway have cooperated over decades, and this has paid off.

The results are literally being harvested by our fishermen.

Our joint expertise about the Barents Sea is world class.

And we are happy to share this expertise with the rest of the world – so that we can achieve our common goal of a bright, blue future.

Thank you.