Report No. 37 to the Storting (2008-2009)

Integrated Management of the Marine Environment of the Norwegian Sea— Report No. 37 (2008 – 2009) to the Storting

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2 Introduction

2.1 Integrated, ecosystem-based marine management

The foundation for integrated, ecosystem-based management of Norwegian coastal and marine areas was laid in the white paper Protecting the Riches of the Sea (Report No. 12 (2001–2002) to the Storting). The term «integrated» is used to mean that the cumulative effects of all human activities on the marine environment are considered. The term «ecosystem-based management» means that the management of human activities is based on the limits within which ecosystem structure, functioning, productivity and biological diversity can be maintained. The concept of the ecosystem approach has been developed and incorporated into a number of international agreements over the past 10–15 years, and the Convention on Biological Diversity (see Box 2.1) has served as an important framework for this process. This approach to marine management was also incorporated into regional conventions, agreements and cooperation forums at an early stage. In the white paper Protecting the Riches of the Sea, the ecosystem approach is described as «integrated management of human activities based on ecosystem dynamics. The goal is to achieve sustainable use of resources and goods derived from ecosystems and to maintain their structure, functioning and productivity».

Textbox 2.1 The Malawi Principles for the Ecosystem Approach (under the Convention on Biological Diversity)

(1) Management objectives are a matter of societal choice.

(2) Management should be decentralised to the lowest appropriate level.

(3) Ecosystem managers should consider the effects of their activities on adjacent and other ecosystems.

(4) Recognising potential gains from management, there is a need to understand the ecosystem in an economic context, considering e.g. mitigating market distortions, aligning incentives to promote sustainable use, and internalising costs and benefits.

(5) A key feature of the ecosystem approach includes conservation of ecosystem structure and functioning.

(6) Ecosystems must be managed within the limits to their functioning.

(7) The ecosystem approach should be undertaken at the appropriate scale.

(8) Recognising the varying temporal scales and lag effects which characterise ecosystem processes, objectives for ecosystem management should be set for the long term.

(9) Management must recognise that change is inevitable.

(10) The ecosystem approach should seek the appropriate balance between conservation and use of biodiversity.

(11) The ecosystem approach should consider all forms of relevant information, including scientific and indigenous and local knowledge, innovations and practices.

(12) The ecosystem approach should involve all relevant sectors of society and scientific disciplines.

The white paper Integrated Management of the Marine Environment of the Barents Sea and the Sea Areas off the Lofoten Islands (Report No. 8 (2005–2006) to the Storting), which sets out the plan referred to in this report as «the integrated management plan for the Barents Sea–Lofoten area», was debated in the Storting in spring 2006. This was the first management plan developed for a Norwegian sea area, and both the development process and the plan itself have been used as a model for the development of the present plan. During the Storting debate on the white paper The Government’s Environmental Policy and the State of the Environment in Norway (Report No. 26 (2006–2007) to the Storting), a strategic objective and national targets for integrated marine and inland water management were adopted (see Box 2.2).

Textbox 2.2 Norway’s goals for integrated marine and inland water management

Strategic objective

Norwegian coastal and marine areas and inland waters will be managed using an integrated, ecosystem-based approach. Cumulative environmental effects will not exceed a level at which the structure, functioning and productivity of ecosystems and biodiversity are maintained. The water quality in inland and marine waters will be high enough to maintain species and ecosystems and to take account of the requirements of human health and welfare.

National targets

  • By 2015, integrated, ecosystem-based management plans will be drawn up for all Norwegian sea areas.

  • In accordance with the Water Management Regulations, integrated, ecosystem-based management plans with programmes of measures will be drawn up for at least one sub-district in each river basin district by 2009, and for all Norway’s inland and coastal waters by 2015.

Integrated, ecosystem-based management plans for sea areas clarify the overall framework for both existing and new activities and facilitate coexistence between different industries such as the fisheries industry, maritime transport and the petroleum industry. As a general rule, they apply to sea areas from the baseline and outwards to the open sea, and to pressures and impacts from human activities in these areas. All activities in a sea area are managed according to the principle that the cumulative effects must not exceed a level that will allow ecosystems to be maintained. The management plans also cover the impacts of human activities on coastal areas. The 2006 Water Management Regulations provide a framework for establishing environmental objectives to ensure protection and sustainable use of coastal areas inside the baseline. According to these regulations, management plans for inland and coastal waters are to be drawn up by the competent authority for each river basin district. From 1 January 2010, one of the relevant county governor’s offices will be the competent authority for each river basin district. The form of and the process leading up to decisions on the management plans for sea areas and those drawn up under the Water Management Regulations differ in certain respects, but both promote more integrated, ecosystem-based management.

Integrated, ecosystem-based management is a continual process that requires cooperation between the authorities, scientists and stakeholders. Effective mechanisms for cross-sectoral coordination will be an important element of the management regime.

Other important measures for preventing cumulative environmental effects from damaging ecosystems are systematic monitoring of the state of the environment and building up knowledge about pressures exerted by individual sectors and the overall pressures on marine ecosystems. Systematic monitoring of risk trends across sectors also makes it possible to take preventive measures against acute pollution and to ensure an adequate emergency response system.

2.2 The relationship between the marine management plans and Norwegian legislation

Since the introduction of the management plan for the Barents Sea–Lofoten area, the development of an integrated, ecosystem-based marine management regime has been further strengthened by the Nature Management Act (Proposition No. 52 (2008–2009) to the Storting) and the new Marine Resources Act, which entered into force on 1 January 2009. The management plans for Norway’s sea areas set out the overall political and strategic framework and guidelines for management across sectors, and describe the measures that are to be implemented for the conservation and sustainable use of these areas. The Nature Management Act and the Marine Resources Act determine the overall legal framework (purpose, management goals and principles) for the management of sea areas, and the measures that must (duties) and may (powers) be implemented under the legislation. This is described in more detail in Chapter 7.

2.3 Objectives and purpose of the management plan

In addition to more specific targets for management of the Norwegian Sea (see Chapter 9.1), the Government has set the following objectives:

  • management of the Norwegian Sea will promote sustainable use of the area and its resources to the benefit of the region and the country in general;

  • the management regime will take special account of the need to protect vulnerable habitat types and species;

  • the management regime will ensure that activities in the area do not threaten the natural resource base and will thus safeguard opportunities for future value creation;

  • the management regime will supplement necessary new legislation by further developing and strengthening the capacity for cooperation between Norwegian and foreign law enforcement bodies;

  • the management regime will facilitate economically viable commercial activities and as far as possible promote value creation and employment in the region;

  • 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;

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

  • living marine resources will be managed sustainably through the ecosystem approach;

  • petroleum activities will 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;

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

  • 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;

  • the Norwegian Sea will continue to be a source of high-quality seafood for international markets.

Textbox 2.3 What are ecosystem services?

Ecosystem services are goods, services and processes derived from the environment that are necessary for human survival, welfare and social development. There are four classes of ecosystem services: provisioning services, cultural services, supporting services and regulating services. For example, fish and shellfish that can be harvested, and marine genetic resources and wave power that can be utilised, are provisioning services. Examples of cultural services are aspects of the marine environment that form the basis for tourism or recreation. Supporting and regulating services are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services. Examples are biodiversity, habitats, the capacity of the sea to cycle nutrients and process hazardous substances, and its role in regulating climate and weather.

Source UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005.

On the basis of these objectives, the purpose of the present management plan is to provide a framework for value creation through the sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystem services in the Norwegian Sea and at the same time maintain the structure, functioning, productivity and diversity of the ecosystems of the area. This requires close coordination between the objectives of the management plan and the legislation that applies to the geographical area of the plan. The management plan is a tool which will be used both to facilitate value creation and to maintain the high environmental value of the area. This means that the framework for activities in the area must be clarified so as to facilitate the sound conduct of activities and coexistence between different industries such as the fisheries and petroleum industries and maritime transport. The management plan is also intended to be instrumental in ensuring that business interests, local, regional and central authorities, environmental organisations and other interest groups all have a common understanding of the goals for the management of the Norwegian Sea.

2.4 Organisation of the work

The preparation of an integrated management plan for the Norwegian Sea began in January 2007, and has been organised by an interministerial Steering Committee for the integrated management of Norwegian maritime areas chaired by the Ministry of the Environment. Other members are the Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In spring 2007 the Steering Committee established an expert group whose task was to compile the scientific basis for the integrated management plan. The group was chaired by the Directorate for Nature Management, and the other members were the Directorate of Fisheries, the Institute of Marine Research, the Norwegian Coastal Administration, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, the Petroleum Safety Authority, the Norwegian Maritime Directorate, the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority and the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority.

In 2007 the expert group presented five reports that provided a common factual basis for impact assessments: on the environment and natural resources; on maritime transport; on petroleum activities; on fisheries activities; and on commercial activities and social conditions in the counties bordering on the Norwegian Sea. Using these as a basis, impact assessments were conducted in 2007–2008 for fisheries, petroleum activities and maritime transport, which are the activities most likely to affect the state of the environment, the natural resource base and the possibility of engaging in other commercial activities in the management plan area. In addition, the impacts of external pressures such as long-range transboundary pollution, emissions from onshore activities, climate change, ocean acidification and the introduction of alien species were assessed. The cumulative effects were assessed for current (based on 2006) activity levels (normal situation and accidents) and for scenarios for projected levels of activity in the different sectors in 2025 (2025 and 2080 for climate change). If the location and/or levels of activity turn out to be different from those estimated in the assessments, the impacts during normal operations may also differ, and so may the probability and potential impacts of major or minor accidents. A five-point scale has been used (see Table 2.1) to indicate the expected level of impact on the species groups and habitat types considered in the impact assessments.

Table 2.1 Five-point scale used to indicate level of impact


Substantial, extensive loss of ecosystem services and irreversible damage to ecosystems


Serious loss of ecosystem services and considerable risk of irreversible damage to ecosystems and ecosystem functions


Isolated but considerable damage to ecosystems and risk of irreversible damage, although this is unlikely


Isolated cases of minor, reversible damage to ecosystems


No damage to ecosystems

Source Report on cumulative environmental effects in the Norwegian Sea.

All the above-mentioned reports were used as a basis for compiling an assessment of the cumulative environmental effects on the Norwegian Sea and a review of the vulnerability of the particularly valuable areas. In addition, reports on conflicts of interests and knowledge needs and status have been prepared. A further report proposes indicators, reference values and action thresholds for use in an integrated system for monitoring trends in the state of the ecosystem (environmental quality) in the management plan area (see Chapter 9.2). All the documents discussed here, which provide the scientific basis for the management plan, were completed by October 2008. All the documentation is available on the environmental authorities’ websites.

To ensure broad participation in the preparation of the management plan, transparent procedures were followed and various interested parties and experts were drawn into the work. Consultations were held on the study programmes for the impact assessments and on the sectoral impact assessments. In November 2008 an open conference on the management plan was held in Ålesund, where the scientific work and the need for measures were discussed in workshops and plenary sessions. The conference was attended by more than 200 persons. It was also possible to submit written input and views after the conference.

Figure 2-1.EPS Process for drawing up an integrated management plan for the
 Norwegian Sea

Figure 2-1.EPS Process for drawing up an integrated management plan for the Norwegian Sea

Source Ministry of the Environment

The present management plan is based on previous knowledge together with all the background documents produced specifically for the plan and other input received since 2007.

2.5 Geographical delimitation, time frame and thematic delimitation of the management plan

The geographical delimitation of the management plan for the Norwegian Sea is based on ecological and administrative considerations. The boundary of the management plan area follows a combination of natural boundaries between marine ecosystems and the boundaries of areas under Norway’s jurisdiction. The management plan covers the areas in the Norwegian exclusive economic zone outside the baseline from 62°N at Stad and north to 80°N at Framstredet, northwest of Svalbard, including the deep-water areas west of the Barents Sea and in the fisheries protection zone around Svalbard, and the fisheries zone around Jan Mayen. The scientific basis for the management plan also includes the area of international waters known as the Banana Hole.

The boundary of the management plan area off the Lofoten and Vesterålen Islands has been drawn along the foot of the continental slope, at a depth of about 2 000 metres. In the Barents Sea/Svalbard area, the boundary follows the lower part of the continental slope because of the ecological relationship between the continental slope and the Barents Sea. The background documents and assessments of management challenges and goals in this plan cover the whole of this geographical area. Parts of the area that are in international waters or that are the subject of delimitation consultations with other countries are discussed in the background documents, but the spatial management measures do not apply to these areas. An area inside the baseline in the Vestfjorden has been included in the management plan area for the Norwegian Sea because the thematic scope of the management plans for sea areas includes the important ecological goods and services provided by the Vestfjorden and the types of activities carried out in this area.

Figure 2-2.EPS Geographical delimitation of the integrated management plan
 for the Norwegian Sea

Figure 2-2.EPS Geographical delimitation of the integrated management plan for the Norwegian Sea

Source Norwegian Hydrographic Service

Geographically speaking, the waters off the Lofoten and Vesterålen Islands are also part of the Norwegian Sea. However, since there is a close ecological relationship between the spawning areas off Lofoten–Vesterålen and the fish stocks in the Barents Sea, these areas are covered by the integrated management plan for the Barents Sea–Lofoten area. An area west of the Barents Sea, in the fisheries protection zone around Svalbard, was also considered during the preparation of the management plan for the Barents Sea–Lofoten area, but it was considered more appropriate to include it in the geographical area of the present management plan because of its close ecological relationship with the Norwegian Sea. However, the assessments and proposed measures for this area described in the management plan for the Barents Sea–Lofoten area will continue to apply.

The present plan will be updated at regular intervals up to 2025 with a view to an overall revision in 2025 for the subsequent period.

Certain thematic and policy areas, such as issues relating to international law, security policy and business policy, are briefly discussed in the present management plan but not considered in depth.

2.6 The Law of the Sea and the international framework for integrated ecosystem-based management

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which Norway has ratified, entered into force in 1994 and lays down fundamental international rules for all maritime activity. It therefore also constitutes the overall legal framework for activities in and the management of the Norwegian Sea. It establishes rights and duties that apply to Norway as a coastal state regarding environmental protection, jurisdiction over maritime transport, and utilisation of living marine resources and petroleum and energy resources.

The Convention also provides the basis in international law for the establishment of Norway’s 12-nautical-mile territorial limit and 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, the 200-nautical-mile fisheries zone around Jan Mayen and the 200-nautical mile fisheries protection zone around Svalbard, and for determining the extent of the Norwegian continental shelf. The delimitation lines for the continental shelf and the 200-mile zones between Norway and other coastal states bordering on the Norwegian Sea have essentially been clarified in international agreements, with the exception of the southern part of the Banana Hole. However, in September 2006, Norway, Iceland and Denmark/the Faroe Islands signed agreed minutes establishing a basis for delimitation of the continental shelf in the southern part of the Banana Hole. Final delimitation agreements will be concluded once the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) has made its recommendations. Norway submitted its documentation on the outer limits of the continental shelf in 2006 and the CLCS issued its final recommendations in April 2009. However, since Iceland and the Faroe Islands have not yet submitted their documentation, it will take some time for the extent of their parts of the continental shelf to be determined. Thus it will not be possible to determine the final delimitation line in the Banana Hole in the near future.

Under the Convention on the Law of the Sea, states have the obligation to protect and preserve the marine environment, and must take all measures consistent with the Convention using the best practicable means at their disposal. The Convention emphasises the necessity for global and regional cooperation on formulating and elaborating international rules, standards and recommended practices and procedures for the protection of the marine environment. A good example of regional cooperation is the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) (see the subsection on OSPAR below).

The Convention on the Law of the Sea gives coastal states the right to establish exclusive economic zones extending up to 200 nautical miles from the baseline, and gives them sovereign rights to natural resources in these zones. The Convention sets out principles for management of such zones and the considerations that apply. Within their economic zones, coastal states must ensure that management and conservation of fisheries resources are based on the best available scientific evidence and that living resources are not endangered by over-exploitation. Where a coastal state does not have the capacity to harvest the entire allowable catch, it must give other states access to the surplus, although in practice this provision is seldom relevant.

The 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement elaborates on and strengthens important provisions of the Convention on the Law of the Sea. The agreement provides a firm basis in international law for conservation and management regimes (as discussed in Proposition No. 43 (1995–1996) to the Storting on consent to ratification of the agreement), and specifies that management of fish stocks in areas under national jurisdiction and in the adjacent high seas must be compatible and coherent. It also provides a firm basis in international law for applying the precautionary principle to fisheries management and contains provisions for implementing the principle. In addition the agreement requires states to establish regional cooperation arrangements for fisheries management and provides for more effective enforcement of fisheries regulation. Article 23 states that a port state has the right and duty to take measures to promote the effectiveness of subregional, regional and global conservation and management measures.

The North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), which is described below, is another example of regional cooperation in this area.

Norway has adopted a number of international agreements and is involved in various cooperation forums whose work is related to management of its marine areas. The most important of these are listed in Box 2.4, and some of the most important international processes and other countries’ work on ecosystem-based management are described below under the relevant headings.

Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR)

The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR), which was adopted in 1992, was based on the previous 20 years’ experience of implementing the Oslo and Paris Conventions. The convention emphasises the obligation to apply the precautionary and polluter pays principles and to utilise the best available techniques and best environmental practices to prevent and eliminate pollution. By regulating pollution from land-based and offshore (petroleum activities) sources and from dumping or incineration, the convention provides a comprehensive framework for protection of the marine environment against pollution and the adverse effects of human activities. As part of OSPAR’s commitment to the ecosystem approach, a new annex, Annex V on protection and conservation of the ecosystems and biological diversity of the maritime area, was adopted in 1998.

OSPAR publishes quality status reports on the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic at regular intervals, most recently in 2000. The next report, Quality Status Report 2010 (QSR 2010), will be presented at the OSPAR Ministerial Meeting in Bergen in 2010. QSR 2010 will be based on an ecosystem approach and will examine all aspects of human influence on the marine environment.

In cooperation with other bodies, including the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), which is the governing body of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area, OSPAR has in recent years played an active role in ensuring that the regional seas conventions are used as a platform for the development of integrated management plans in line with the EU’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The work includes efforts to ensure that the QSR 2010 as far as possible includes the initial assessments required under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (see section 2.7 below).

The present management plan and its scientific basis will provide important input to QSR 2010, which in turn will form part of the scientific basis for Norway’s management plan for the North Sea.

OSPAR’s sphere of responsibility does not include fisheries or maritime transport, which are covered by the NEAFC and the IMO respectively. OSPAR works closely with other competent regional organisations and has concluded agreed memorandums of understanding or agreements of cooperation with a number of these, including the NEAFC and the IMO.

The North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC)

The NEAFC promotes long-term conservation and optimum utilisation of the fishery resources of the Convention Area. Its most important function today is to promote the development of good regional control and enforcement schemes and a more ecosystem-based approach to management of the relevant sea areas. The NEAFC Convention applies to all fishery resources in the Convention Area apart from marine mammals and, insofar as they are dealt with by other international agreements, highly migratory species (such as tuna). The parties to the NEAFC are Denmark, representing the Faroe Islands and Greenland, the EU, Iceland, Norway and Russia. The secretariat is located in London.

Textbox 2.4 International agreements and cooperation applicable to the marine environment

An important part of the framework for management of Norwegian sea areas is provided by international agreements and the work of various international organisations. Some of the most important are listed below.

Global level

  • The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS, 1982), which provides the overall legal framework for management of sea areas.

  • The Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matters (1972), together with the 1996 Protocol.

  • The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has adopted a number of conventions relating to protection of the marine environment, including the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems (2001) and the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (2004, not yet in force).

  • The Convention on the Continental Shelf (1958).

  • The Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (1979).

  • The United Nations Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA) (1995).

  • The United Nations Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (Fish Stocks Agreement) (1995).

  • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, 1992) is a global agreement on conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and the equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources.

  • The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (the Bonn Convention, 1979). The objective of the Convention is to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range.

  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) regulates international trade in wild animals and plants.

  • The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar Convention, 1971). Although it originally focused on wetlands as waterfowl habitats, the Convention now deals with a very wide range of wetland issues, including integrated water resources management and poverty issues.

  • The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention, 1991). The objective of the Convention is to prevent, reduce and control significant adverse transboundary environmental impacts.

  • The International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC Convention, 1990).

  • The Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents (1992).

  • The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (2001).

Regional level

  • The Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR, 1992) regulates all sources of pollution and aims to protect the biodiversity and marine ecosystems of the North-East Atlantic.

  • The objective of the Convention on Future Multilateral Co-operation in the North East Atlantic Fisheries, and the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC, 1980) established pursuant to the Convention, is to promote the conservation and optimum utilisation of the fishery resources of the North-East Atlantic area.

  • The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (the Bern Convention, 1979) was adopted to conserve wild plant and animal species and their natural habitats, especially species and habitats whose conservation requires cooperation between states, and to promote such cooperation.

  • The Arctic Council (1996) is an intergovernmental forum for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction between the circumpolar Arctic States. The member states are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US. Environmental concerns are at the core of the cooperation, and a working group has been established on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME). Working groups have also been established for the Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP), the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) and Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR).

  • The Agreement for Cooperation in dealing with Pollution of the North Sea by Oil and Other Harmful Substances (Bonn Agreement, 1983).

  • The Nordic Council of Ministers (1971) is a cooperation forum for the governments of the Nordic countries, which deals among other issues with the marine environment and its integrated management.

  • The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) is mainly concerned with issues relating to maritime safety, environmental protection and acute pollution by ships. It also supports the pollution response systems of member states.

The Commission’s primary function is to coordinate the regulation of fisheries for stocks that migrate between different countries’ exclusive economic zones and international waters. These are mackerel, blue whiting, Norwegian spring-spawning herring and redfish. Coastal state agreements have now been concluded for these stocks, except for redfish, that will make it possible to conclude agreements on their management in the NEAFC as well.

The NEAFC is taking active steps to adapt to developments in the Law of the Sea, in accordance with the precautionary principle and the ecosystem approach, and Norway has played a key role in this process. The NEAFC was the first regional fisheries management organisation to establish port state control rules, which have been shown to be an effective tool for combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU). The organisation has also implemented a comprehensive system for satellite tracking of fishing vessels in the North-East Atlantic. Norway has played an active role in the process of implementing operational rules on the protection of sensitive marine ecosystems within the NEAFC area. The rules are based on the UN Resolution calling on states to restrict bottom fishing in vulnerable marine ecosystems and the FAO guidelines on the management of deep-sea fisheries on the high seas. As early as 2004 the NEAFC closed a number of vulnerable areas to bottom trawling and fishing with fixed gear.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC)

The purpose of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling is to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry, on the basis of scientific findings. The IWC was established to fulfil this purpose.

The IWC decided at its meeting in 1982 to introduce a temporary moratorium on commercial whaling from 1985/86. This provision was to be kept under review, based on the best scientific advice, and according to the wording of the moratorium, «by 1990 at the latest the Commission will undertake a comprehensive assessment of the effects of this decision on whale stocks and will consider modification of this provision and the establishment of other catch limits.» Norway entered a reservation in accordance with Article V (3) of the Convention, and is therefore not bound by its provisions. Norway also entered a reservation against the 1985 IWC decision to define the North-East Atlantic minke whale stock as protected, since there was no scientific basis for the decision. Thus Norway is not bound by this decision either. Norwegian whaling, which takes place mainly in the management plan area, has therefore been conducted since 1992 on a national autonomous basis and according to a national management regime established by the Government in line with the relevant IWC provisions and using the IWC’s Revised Management Procedure. It should be noted that the IWC has not managed to comply with the comprehensive assessment provision or to modify it, so that 19 years later the text still remains unchanged. Given that this is a sunset provision, in Norway’s view the decision no longer applies to any of the parties to the convention, including those that, unlike Norway, lodged no reservation at the time.

The North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO)

NAMMCO was established in 1992, with Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands as members. Canada, Japan and Russia have observer status. The purpose of the commission is cooperation on the conservation, management and study of marine mammals in the North Atlantic area.

One of the reasons for the establishment of NAMMCO was that the IWC was not fulfilling its management obligations under the Whaling Convention. The commission has focused mainly on small cetaceans, seals and walruses, which are outside the IWC’s field of responsibility, but the commission does advise the IWC on management of populations managed by the IWC. In practice the commission functions as a supplement to the IWC, and there is close cooperation between the scientific committees of the IWC and NAMMCO.

NAMMCO has become a competent and effective body and the member countries have improved their management of several marine mammal populations.

One of the main functions of the commission is to investigate how marine mammals respond to changes in the marine environment and how these mammals interact with important commercial fish stocks. The commission is expected to continue to give priority to ecosystem-based management of marine resources in the North Atlantic.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES)

All countries bordering the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea are members of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which was established in 1902. ICES coordinates and promotes marine research, provides information on the marine ecosystem of the North Atlantic, including the ocean climate and the status of living marine resources, and advises on their harvesting potential. Scientific advice from ICES is vital to the management of joint fish stocks and the management regimes of the individual member countries. The scientific basis for advice is compiled by a number of expert groups, which cover all areas of marine research and in which researchers from all the member countries may participate. Together they form a body of expertise on the composition of marine ecosystems and the factors that influence them. Scientific advice from ICES is based on the ecosystem approach. The advisory process is open and transparent, and observers have access to it at almost every level. ICES’ advice on fish stocks is crucial to fisheries management and forms an agreed frame of reference for international quota negotiations. ICES also provides advice and research findings to other organisations like OSPAR, and is one of the main contributors to the OSPAR quality status report for the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR QSR 2010). It publishes an annual climate report and a biannual plankton report for the North Atlantic area.

2.7 Work on integrated, ecosystem-based marine management in the EU and other countries

The European Union (EU)

The EU is also taking an integrated approach to marine management and sea-related activities, under which the cumulative effects of activities in all sectors and industries on the marine environment are considered together. The EU’s maritime policy focuses on a wide of policy areas that include the environment, maritime transport, fisheries, aquaculture, climate and energy, and research. Maritime spatial planning is used as a tool for reconciling competing maritime economic activities and for integrated coastal zone planning. The maritime policy also proposes specific actions covering different aspects of maritime transport, for example a strategy for ship dismantling. The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) is providing important technical assistance in this field, in particular through its responsibility for ensuring an optimal pollution preparedness and response system for maritime transport, and for investigating illegal spills. As part of the follow-up to its maritime policy, the EU is also adopting an Arctic Strategy.

The EU’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive, adopted on 17 June 2008, is described as the environmental pillar of the organisation’s maritime policy. It sets out procedural and general requirements for member states’ systems for protection and use of the marine environment, and thus establishes a joint framework for management of all European marine waters. The directive does not, however, contain specific requirements regarding commercial and other activities that could have impacts on the marine environment.

Marine regions have been established under the Directive, and these may be divided into subregions and subdivisions. The North-east Atlantic Ocean is designated as a marine region, while the Greater North Sea, including the Kattegat and the English Channel, is a subregion.

The aim of the Directive is to achieve good environmental status in all European marine waters by 2020 at the latest. Coherent and coordinated strategies are to be developed for each marine region with the following main elements:

  1. Determination of good environmental status: by 2012 member states must:

    1. determine good environmental status for each marine region or subregion;

    2. establish environmental targets and associated indicators;

    3. make an initial assessment of the current environmental status of the waters and the environmental impact of human activities in the whole marine region concerned.

  2. Monitoring: by 2014 a coordinated monitoring programme must be established and implemented.

  3. Programme of measures: by 2015 at the latest an integrated programme of measures designed to achieve or maintain good environmental status by 2020 must be established, which will enter into operation by 2016 at the latest.

Countries sharing a marine region or subregion will be required to cooperate to ensure that the measures are coherent and coordinated across the marine region or subregion concerned. Existing regional structures and cooperation forums such as OSPAR and HELCOM (see section 2.6 above), and the Barcelona and Black Sea Conventions will play a key role as platforms for the implementation of the Directive in the relevant regions and subregions.

The Directive also provides for more rapid action than set out in the normal timetable «where the status of the sea is so critical as to necessitate urgent action». The Baltic Sea, which suffers from extensive eutrophication, is an example of a marine area to which this provision is highly applicable.

The European Commission and the various EU presidencies have actively involved Norway in the development of the Marine Strategy Directive. The work on management plans in Norway, especially the integrated management plan for the Barents Sea–Lofoten area, has been presented several times in EU forums, and has to some extent served as a model for the development of the marine strategies currently being drawn up under the Directive. The EU is also maintaining close contact with the regional seas conventions in this process. For example, the conventions are independently represented in the EU work on elaborating the Directive’s general environmental goals and requirements.

The way Norway should be associated with the directive is currently under consideration.


Marine environmental protection, especially improving the state of the Baltic Sea environment, has high priority in Sweden. In October 2008 an EU-financed analysis of the costs and benefits in the event that measures are taken or are not taken in this sea area, a parallel to the Stern Review on climate change, was submitted to the Riksdag. Sweden is taking steps to promote more integrated marine management through OSPAR, the Nordic Council and the EU. The marine environment will be a priority area when Sweden takes over the EU presidency in autumn 2009.

The UK

The need for a new approach and new legislation for the management of sea-based activities has been pointed out in a number of British studies and reports in recent years, starting with the Marine Stewardship Report of 2002. As a result the British Government introduced the Marine and Coastal Access Bill in 2008, which proposes a new marine planning system for the strategic management of the seas around the UK. This includes a new marine licensing system, new measures for the conservation of marine biodiversity and the development of a series of marine plans. Under the provisions of the Bill, it will be possible to designate marine conservation zones in all United Kingdom sea areas, including the exclusive economic zone and the UK sector of the continental shelf. The aim is that the UK should fulfil its commitment under the Convention on Biological Diversity to establish an ecologically coherent network of well-managed marine protected areas by 2010, and its commitment to protect habitats and species under the EU’s Habitats Directive and wild birds under the Wild Birds Directive.


A key element of the Canadian Oceans Act, which was passed in 1997, is an integrated, ecosystem-based approach to management of the Canadian oceans. The Act was followed in 2002 by Canada’s Oceans Strategy, which is a policy framework for marine management. National guidelines have been developed for identification of ecologically and biologically important areas, species and features of the marine environment, and for drawing up conservation goals for integrated management plans in defined ecoregions. In 2005 Canada adopted an Oceans Action Plan with a budget for the first of a series of phases extending up to 2012. Canada has also increased support for development and implementation of regional integrated management plans for Canadian sea areas.

The first multi-year, strategic-level plan is the Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management (ESSIM) Initiative. The Eastern Scotian Shelf is a sea area of over 300 000 km2off the east coast of Nova Scotia. ESSIM is implemented through existing jurisdictional, management and regulatory regimes and processes and specific action plans. There are working groups on sector-specific, cross-sectoral and topic-based measures (for example fisheries, marine spatial planning and waste reduction respectively). Canada is also developing a number of other integrated management plans for sea and coastal areas that will be discussed and agreed on with stakeholders and approved by state and federal authorities.

Centres of expertise, including one for developing a state of the oceans reporting system, have been established to work on national priority areas of marine management.


In 2004 Australia published the South-East Regional Marine Plan, and in 2005 it was decided that marine bioregional plans should be developed for all Australia’s marine regions by 2012. The plans have been brought directly under federal environmental legislation, and will be key documents in cooperation and consultation with stakeholders on the use of the marine regions. Each of the five regions – South-east, South-west, North-west, North and East Marine Regions – will have its own marine bioregional plan. The planning process, which is at different stages for the various regions, involves the creation of regional profiles that describe the key features of each region (habitats, species, natural processes, and so on). They also set out the objectives for subsequent work on developing the final Marine Bioregional Plan. Regional profiles were completed for the North and North-west Regions in 2008, and the final plans for these regions are expected to be released in 2010. They will identify a wide range of measures, including the establishment of marine protected areas in each region.

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