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Meld. St. 37 (2012-2013)

Integrated Management of the Marine Environment of the North Sea and Skagerrak (Management Plan) — Meld. St. 37 (2012–2013) Report to the Storting (white paper)

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8 Goals for management of the North Sea and Skagerrak

In this white paper, the Government presents a set of goals for management of the North Sea and Skagerrak. They are intended to reflect relevant national and international goals for the environment and value creation and the purpose of this management plan. They are designed to give clear guidance for the work of improving the environmental status of the North Sea and Skagerrak as a basis for conservation and sustainable use of the area and for value creation and coexistence between industries. The goals apply to all activities in the management plan area.

Purpose

The purpose of this management plan is to provide a framework for the sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystem services derived from the North Sea and Skagerrak and at the same time maintain the structure, functioning, productivity and diversity of the area’s ecosystems.

Knowledge-based management

Management of the North Sea and Skagerrak must be based on the best available knowledge. The management regime will be further improved by systematically building up new knowledge about ecosystems, ecosystem services, the state of marine ecosystems and pressures and impacts on these ecosystems.

8.1 Biodiversity and ecosystems

The state of the North Sea and Skagerrak environment has been improved in recent decades, but still gives cause for concern and is unsatisfactory in many ways. These waters are naturally rich and productive, but the different types of pressures on the environment entail considerable management challenges. The Government will continue efforts to improve environmental status in the management plan area, in order to maintain biodiversity and ensure the continued provision of ecosystem services as a basis for harvesting.

One of Norway’s environmental targets is to maintain or restore the structure, functioning, productivity and diversity of marine ecosystems so that they provide a basis for value creation through the sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystem services. This means that we accept that human activities leave a «footprint» and that marine areas too are affected by them, but at the same time, activities must be carried out in a way that limits the pressures they cause, to avoid any significant degradation of the environment or of the basis for ecosystem services. In other words, the aim is not to achieve a «natural state», but a state that allows ecosystems to function normally and ensures that they are resilient and productive.

Improving the state of the environment in the North Sea and Skagerrak is expected to increase ecosystem resilience to environmental pressures. Increasing ecosystem resilience and preventing fragmentation of habitats will be a good basis for enhancing ecosystem services and long-term opportunities for harvesting from the management plan area.

Most pressures on the North Sea and Skagerrak can be dealt with using national policy instruments, but in other cases international cooperation is needed. This applies for example to long-range transboundary pollution, climate change, ocean acidification and management of fish stocks. By means of targeted efforts, the Government intends to reduce cumulative environmental effects on the North Sea and Skagerrak to a level that permits positive trends in the state of the environment and the basis for sustainable use.

The Government has set the following goals for biodiversity and ecosystems and sustainable use in the North Sea-Skagerrak management plan area, to be achieved by 2020.

Achieving good environmental status

  • Management of the North Sea and Skagerrak will ensure that diversity at ecosystem, habitat, species and genetic levels, and the productivity of ecosystems, are maintained and enhanced. Human activity in the area will not damage the structure, functioning or productivity of ecosystems.

Particularly valuable and vulnerable areas and habitats

  • The management regime will take special account of the need to protect vulnerable habitat types and species in particularly valuable and vulnerable areas. Activities will be conducted with special care and in such a way that the ecological functioning and biodiversity of such areas are not threatened.

Management of habitat types and species

  • Naturally occurring species will exist in viable populations that provide for sufficient reproductive capacity and long-term survival.

  • Species that are essential to the structure, functioning and productivity of ecosystems will be managed in such a way that they are able to maintain their role as key species in the ecosystem concerned.

  • Populations of endangered and vulnerable species and species for which Norway has a special responsibility will be maintained or restored to viable levels. Unintentional negative pressures on such species as a result of activity in the North Sea and Skagerrak will be avoided.

  • The establishment of marine protected areas in Norway’s coastal and marine waters will contribute to an internationally representative network of marine protected areas.

Sustainable harvesting and use

  • Living marine resources will be managed sustainably through an ecosystem approach based on the best available knowledge.

  • Harvesting will not have significant adverse effects on other parts of the marine ecosystem or its structure.

  • Bycatches of marine mammals and seabirds will be minimised.

  • Living marine resources will be harvested making use of the best available techniques for different types of gear to minimise negative impacts on other ecosystem components such as marine mammals, seabirds and benthic communities.

Alien organisms

  • The introduction and spread of alien organisms through human activity will be avoided.

8.2 Value creation, commercial activities and society

Ecosystem services and resources in the management plan area provide a basis for substantial value creation and revenue. The goals for value creation in the North Sea and Skagerrak are listed below.

  • Management of the North Sea and Skagerrak will promote sustainable use of the area and its resources.

  • Management of the North Sea and Skagerrak will facilitate economically viable commercial activities and as far as possible promote value creation and employment in the region.

  • Management of the North Sea and Skagerrak will ensure that activities in the area do not threaten the natural resource base and will thus safeguard opportunities for future value creation.

  • Management of commercial activities in the area will be coordinated to ensure that the various industries are able to coexist and that the overall level of activity is adjusted to take account of environmental considerations.

Fisheries and seafood

  • Harvesting of living marine resources will promote value creation and secure welfare and business development to the benefit of the country as a whole.

  • Harvesting activities and natural resource use that provide a high long-term yield within sustainable limits will be facilitated.

  • The North Sea and Skagerrak will be a source of safe seafood.

Petroleum activities

  • Petroleum activities will continue to promote value creation and secure welfare and business development to the benefit of the country as a whole.

  • Steps will be taken to facilitate the profitable production of oil and gas on the basis of health, environment and safety requirements and standards that are adapted to environmental considerations and the needs of other industries.

Offshore renewable energy

  • The development of offshore renewable energy production will be facilitated, taking into account environmental considerations and other activities.

Maritime transport

  • Favourable conditions will be provided for safe, secure and effective maritime transport that takes account of environmental considerations and promotes value creation in the region.

8.3 Pollution, marine litter and the risk of acute pollution

Clean seas are an essential basis both for achieving good environmental status and for the possibility of harvesting from ecosystems that produce safe seafood. Despite considerable efforts to reduce levels of hazardous substances and other pollutants in the North Sea and Skagerrak, there are still challenges to be dealt with as regards hazardous substances. Climate change and ocean acidification are new pressures, and so far we know little about their impacts. However, they are expected to result in large-scale changes in marine ecosystems. Concentrations of marine litter in the North Sea and Skagerrak are among the highest recorded in the Northeast Atlantic, and litter quantities need to be reduced. Inputs of nutrients are resulting in local eutrophication problems, mainly close to the coast and in fjords. The pollution-related goals for the North Sea and Skagerrak are listed below.

Climate change and ocean acidification

  • When marine ecosystems are used as carbon sinks, the need to maintain biodiversity and natural ecosystem functions will be taken into account.

  • The cumulative effects of human activities on habitats and species that are affected by climate change or ocean acidification (e.g. coral reefs) will be minimised, in order to maintain ecosystem functioning as fully as possible.

Inputs of nutrients, sediment deposition and organic matter

  • Anthropogenic inputs of nutrients, sediment deposition and inputs of organic matter will be limited in order to avoid significant adverse impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems in the management plan area.

Pollution

  • Environmental concentrations of hazardous and radioactive substances will be reduced to background levels for naturally occurring substances and will be close to zero for man-made synthetic substances. Releases and inputs of hazardous or radioactive substances from activity in the management plan area will not cause these levels to be exceeded.

  • Releases and use of substances that pose a serious threat to health or the environment in Norwegian waters will be continuously reduced with a view to eliminating them by 2020.

  • Releases and inputs of pollutants to the North Sea and Skagerrak will not result in injury to health or damage the productivity of the natural environment and its capacity for self-renewal.

  • Operational discharges from activities in the area will not result in damage to the environment or elevated background levels of oil or other environmentally hazardous substances over the long term.

  • Activities in the North Sea and Skagerrak will not result in higher levels of pollutants in seafood.

  • Activities entailing a noise level that may affect species’ behaviour will be limited to avoid the displacement of populations or other effects that may have negative impacts on the marine ecosystem.

Marine litter

  • Inputs of litter that have negative impacts on coastal waters, the sea surface, the water column or the seabed will be reduced.

Risk of acute pollution

  • The risk of damage to the environment and living marine resources from acute pollution will be kept at a low level and continuous efforts will be made to reduce it further.

  • Maritime safety measures and the oil spill preparedness and response will be designed and dimensioned to effectively keep the risk of damage to the environment and living marine resources at a low level.

8.4 Monitoring progress towards goals

As part of the scientific basis for the management plan, a proposed set of indicators was drawn up for use in a coordinated system for monitoring the North Sea and Skagerrak ecosystem. The indicators were selected to coincide with national and international environmental targets, and include state, pressure and impact indicators. In most cases, the indicators are already in use or data are available that can be used, but some further development will be required, for example of reference values and action thresholds. The proposal will be used as a basis by the Advisory Group on Monitoring in its work on the establishment of an integrated monitoring system for the North Sea and Skagerrak. The monitoring results will be used in assessing progress towards the goals.

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