Management plans for marine areas

The purpose of the management plans is to facilitate value creation while also maintaining natural diversity. The Ministry of Climate and Environment is responsible for work with the management plans. Marine management is important in Norway, we have extensive ocean areas – six times greater than our land area. These areas are very rich in resources. We also have many activities here that affect marine life.

Bunes beach in Lofoten
The purpose of the management plans is to facilitate value creation while also maintaining natural diversity. Credit: Snorre Tønset/KLD

Three different ocean areas – three different plans

Norway is bordered by the Barents Sea to the north, the Norwegian Sea to the west and the North Sea and Skagerrak to the south. The deep waters of the Norwegian Sea reach a depth of 3,000 – 4,000 metres.  The two other marine areas are shallow seas. The average depth of the North Sea - Skagerrak is 90 metres whereas in the Barents Sea it is 230 metres.

The three management plans are available here:

Marine management must be based on knowledge

The basis for a new ecosystem-based management of the Norwegian sea and coastal areas was set out in Report no. 12 (2001–2002) to the Storting, Protecting the Riches of the Seas . The management of marine areas must be based on knowledge. We need knowledge about the most important business activities and the state of the marine environment and its developments. It is vital that the connection between influences and environmental consequences is highlighted - and the effects are documented. Therefore researchers from all relevant knowledge communities are involved in preparing a scientific basis for the management plans.


Mapping the bottom of the sea – an exciting landscape

The mapping programme MAREANO was launched in 2006. The programme has now mapped large parts of the section from the Stad sea to the Russian border. Biological, geological and chemical samples of the seabed have been taken. In addition, the seabed has been filmed using a video camera. This has yielded fantastic images of animals and algae in all colours and sizes. The information was used by the researchers when forming the scientific basis for the plans. MAREANO is funded by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries and by the Ministry of Climate and Environment.

A vital system for monitoring marine areas

In order to be able to comment on the state of the environment and changes to it, a monitoring system has been put in place. A set of indicators, for example temperature, plankton, certain species of fish and seabirds are monitored and measured at different intervals. Changes in the indicators alert management that there may have been influences to the marine environment that require measures to be implemented. The monitoring system is still under development as the researchers gain more knowledge.

Monitoring seabirds – an environmental barometer

The seabird programme SEAPOP became operational in 2005. The programme provides us with knowledge on developments in puffins, cormorants and the common eider, and many other species. Using new technology, the researchers can follow the birds' patterns of migration throughout the whole year, from the nesting cliff in the summer to far out at sea in the winter. Certain species may be called an environmental barometer. If the environment changes, you can see it first in developments in the populations of these birds. For example, when parents of the puffins on Røst cannot find food for their chicks, we know that herring fry are not where they usually are. Warmer seas enable mackerel to swim northwards, among other things. And mackerel also like to eat herring larvae.

What is the process involved in creating a management plan?

Norway was among the first to draw up and implement management plans. The foundation is an extensive collaboration between both expert groups and between ministries. All the ministries that work with issues relating to the marine area sit on the Steering Committee for the plans. Stakeholder groups have been involved at various stages in the process up to writing the report. We can illustrate the process involved in the plans by looking at how the Management plan for the North Sea – Skagerrak came about:     

Fact box:

  • Factual basis (2008 – 2010) including
    • Description of businesses
    • Description of the environment and resources
    • Sectoral assessments (2010 – 2011) including impact assessments of
      • Petroleum operations
      • Fisheries and aquaculture
      • Maritime traffic
      • Long-distance pollution
      • Synthesis (2011 – 2012) including
        • Coordination and conflicts of interest
        • Aggregate impacts and consequences
        • Indicators and monitoring system
        • Knowledge requirements
        • Report to the Storting (2013)
          • “Integrated Management of the Marine Environment of the North Sea and Skagerrak” 

The management plans cover the marine area from the base line along the coast and extending outwards to the open sea. The Water Regulations and the management plans together cover the marine environment from the shoreline out to the open sea. For further information on marine management visit Miljø