Implementation of the White Paper on the Place of the Oceans in Norway's Foreign and Development Policy

State Secretary Jens Frølich Holte's speech at the North Atlantic Seafood Forum in Bergen.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to be present here today.

It is a double pleasure to welcome you to my hometown, Bergen – a city built on the rich fisheries just outside our doorstep.

For thousands of years, Norwegians, living along the coast, have made their livelihood from fishing. These days the legendary Lofoten cod fishery – pre-dating the Viking era - is taking place. Bergen emerged as the main trading port for the stockfish, cod liver oil and roe that were exported to countries all across Europe.

Over the centuries, ocean related resources and activities have played key roles in building the Norwegian identity, boosting our economy and reinforcing our relations with the rest of the world.

Already in 1816, the Norwegian parliament, the Storting, stated that "The fisheries are, and will hopefully always remain, Norway's most important gold mine".

With great riches come great responsibilities. Our dependence on the ocean for our livelihood has taught us that these resources must be managed in a sustainable way.

This is why the present Government, a year ago, presented a White Paper to the Storting, titled The Place of the Oceans in Norway's Foreign and Development policy. The Paper enjoyed broad support from all political parties on the Storting.

The White Paper presents Norway's policy for the protection and sustainable use of the oceans.

The basis for our ocean policy is The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – often referred to as the constitution of the oceans. The convention promotes peaceful international cooperation on conservation and sustainable use of the ocean's resources. Experience has taught us that observing the Law of the Sea benefits small and large countries alike.

It is our conviction that all countries need to fully implement the Convention, as well as other regimes and commitments that the international community has agreed to.

The White Paper highlights three areas in particular:

  • Sustainable use and value creation,
  • Clean and healthy oceans, and
  • The blue economy in our development policy.

The OECD estimates that ocean-based industries could double their contribution to the global economy by 2030. This depends, however, on the oceans being clean and healthy.

Our job is to provide the frameworks, regulations and incentives, that ensure future growth and value creation. Together with the ocean based industries we must carve out the right path - a path that provides wealth, not only for the short term, but for generations to come.

Norway cooperates closely with neighbouring countries on the management and harvesting of our most important fish stocks.

This has ensured that we still have a robust and healthy stock of wild fish in our ocean areas.

This is, sadly, not the case in many parts of the world.

According to the World Bank, the global fisheries sector is losing a staggering 83 billion US dollars each year, largely due to overfishing.

The solution is simple: monitor the stocks, and fish accordingly.

Economic growth must go hand in hand with sustainability. Through sustainable use business opportunities, jobs, income and livelihoods for millions of people can be created.

But for this to happen, a truly global effort is needed. Governments, ocean industries, civil society and scientists must work together.

To assist in this endeavour, Prime Minister Solberg announced, on the 25th of January, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, that she would establish an international High-level Panel on Building a Sustainable Ocean Economy. The Panel will consist of heads of government from a select group of coastal countries around the world, both developed and developing countries.

The panel's objective is to increase international understanding of how sustainable use of the oceans – and the ocean economy – can play a key role in meeting the world's most vital needs in the years to come.

It is the Prime Minister's ambition that the High-Level Panel will make a significant contribution towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Furthermore, Norway will be hosting the sixth international Our Ocean Conference in 2019. The purpose of the Conference is to mobilise broad international support to improve the health of the world's oceans. Sustainable fisheries will be a key pillar on the agenda.

Another important element in the White Paper are the bilateral ocean dialogues. These dialogues seek to strengthen the cooperation with select countries on clean and healthy oceans, sustainable use of marine resources and the blue economy. This year, we are planning the first round of an ocean dialogue with Australia. Subsequently, corresponding dialogues with other countries will be initiated.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Rich seas depend on clean seas. Marine litter and microplastics are rapidly destroying our ocean environment. Norway is taking a lead internationally to combat this problem. We want to mobilize other countries, civil society, and the private sector to step up their efforts and to find innovative solutions to stop litter from entering the oceans.

Waste management and waste prevention is key.

There is also a need for more international cooperation in order to combat marine litter for the long run. An important milestone was reached last year when the UN Environmental Assembly agreed on the long-term goal to eliminate all discharge of litter and micro plastics into the oceans. We will push for stronger, global commitments to achieve this goal.

The Norwegian government has launched a development aid program against marine litter and microplastics, totalling 150 million Norwegian kroner in 2018. It is our ambition that this contribution will help countries increase their own efforts to combat marine litter.

The program will also encourage increased participation from other donors and the private sector. We hope that this will spur global efforts to successfully achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14 - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Based on the current rate of growth, the world's population will increase by more than two billion by 2050. Most of them will live in developing countries. Many developing countries have high hopes for the economic and social development opportunities represented by the blue economy. They look to the sea to meet their current and future needs.

The rising pressure on the environment and the marine resources, however, hinders optimal utilisation.

It is our ambition that Norway should be a driving force for international cooperation on sustainable use of the oceans. Our goals, however, can only be achieved together with the rest of the global community.

We might be able to protect Norwegian waters, but the challenges we are facing are truly global in nature. Fish stocks migrate over large stretches and microplastics can make limitless voyages across the globe. In a sense, we are all in the same boat.

Some of the countries which face the biggest challenges are also some of the world's poorest countries. This is why we have established the Fish for Development-programme. By sharing our experience and knowledge towards building sustainable fisheries in developing countries, we can contribute to creating jobs and income, and to provide high quality nutrition.

Part of this effort is the Nansen-programme, a joint effort between Norad (the Norwegian development agency), The Institute of Marine Research and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation - FAO. This program – which has been running for more than 40 years - assists developing countries in gathering data, training scientists and fisheries managements. Norway has recently built a brand new state of the art research vessel - the third Dr. Fridtjof Nansen – which is presently doing research outside the coast of Southern Africa.

I will not go into further detail about the Fish for Development program since Director General of Norad, Jon Lomøy, will tell you all about it later on today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

To sum up, this government has made a sustainable ocean economy a priority area within our foreign and development policies. Sustainable use and value creation can only be realised if we maintain clean and healthy oceans.

Our own experience has taught us that there is no contradition between the activities of ocean-based industries and ensuring a healthy marine environment as long as sound environmental standards are in place and enforced.

This must be a common endeavour. If we join forces to safeguard our oceans, and manage them wisely, then the oceans can be key to feeding the global population and provide income for future generations.

Thank you for your attention.

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