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Science for ocean action

Prime Minister Erna Solbergs speech at the “Science for Ocean Actions” conference convened by the Institute of Marine Research (IMR) in Bergen, 20 November 2018.

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Welcome to Bergen. A beautiful city, and indisputably Norway’s historic ocean capital.

And, best of all, my home town.

It has a long and proud history closely linked to the oceans.

For hundreds of years, Bergen was a major port in the Hanseatic League. The city enjoyed exclusive rights to mediate trade between northern Norway and the rest of Europe. Fish – dried cod – was Bergen’s principal export.  

Jose Manuel Barroso, former President of the European Commission, once remarked that Portugal must be the only country with a national dish – bacalao – originating from 4000 kilometres away.

The rich Norwegian coastal waters have for centuries provided food and other marine resources. Norway still ships wild and farmed fish to the rest of Europe and around the globe. And in larger quantities than ever before.

And, while Bergen no longer has exclusive trading rights, the city hosts leading ocean research and technology development groups.

Bergen’s existence is based on the oceans and will always depend on marine resources.

But this does not make the people of Bergen unique.

Almost half of the world’s population depends on the oceans for nutrition and employment.

The oceans offer opportunities for economic growth and employment. And the ocean economy is of crucial importance for implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

We have less than 12 years left until 2030, the deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. The world has set itself an ambitious task.

A number of key targets for SDG 14 – Life below water – are to be met by 2020. That is less than two years from now.

We will have to produce more from the oceans. We need the oceans to provide more food, more jobs and more energy. And we must maintain their capacity to regulate the climate and support biodiversity. We are dependent on clean and healthy oceans that are sustainably harvested in order to achieve the SDGs.

However, there are several threats to ocean sustainability:

  • the effects of climate change
  • marine litter and pollution
  • illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing
  • loss of habitats and biodiversity.

The impacts of these threats on the oceans are dramatic in many places. They are having real consequences for people, and they are undermining the economic potential of the oceans.

To build a sustainable ocean economy we must stop the degradation of the world’s marine ecosystems and improve the environmental status of the oceans. We must develop and find solutions through science, governance, technology and finance to achieve ocean health – and ocean wealth.

This is why I established the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy earlier this year.

As the only ocean policy body consisting of serving world leaders, we have the authority and determination needed to trigger and accelerate action for ocean protection and productivity. And we are seeking to include ocean businesses in this drive towards more sustainable use of ocean resources.

However, the Panel cannot do this alone.

We need all of you as well.

The High-level Panel aims to promote science-based decision-making in the fields of ocean economy and ocean management. We know that where management is science-based, fisheries are usually sustainable.

We need to learn more about how the oceans can help us meet some of our most vital needs: food security, employment, access to energy, sustainable communities and resilience to climate change.

Science-based, integrated ocean management will be a theme running through the Our Ocean conference in Oslo in October next year. The conference will also be a milestone in the High-level Panel process.

It is essential to tap into the knowledge of leading ocean experts including all of you present today. I urge you all to contribute your knowledge and ideas and to provide action-oriented advice.

In two years’ time, the Panel will present its recommendations. Our ambition is to present innovative ideas in the fields of policy, governance, technology and finance. All with the aim of building a sustainable ocean economy.

You are well placed to make valuable contributions to our discussions and help us draw up good recommendations.  

We need your advice on issues relating to the sustainable management of biological resources in different regions of the world. And on how we can increase the supply of food and other resources and services from the oceans – and do so sustainably.

Your insights into the state of marine ecosystems, fish stocks, harvesting, the effects of pollution, and more, will be valuable.

We look forward to your suggestions for common goals, as well as your ideas about specific regional action points.

Your combined scientific expertise means that you can make vital contributions to the work of the Panel. As leading scientists, you have extensive knowledge and understanding that is crucial if we are to make full use of the opportunities offered by the oceans and deal with environmental problems.

On the other hand, as heads of government, we control the levers of political power. We must create the necessary framework for action, and we must involve the private sector.

Our pooled resources make for quite a potent mix.

Mother Teresa once said, ‘We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.’

You are now part of the Ocean Panel process. Let us work together to win the battle for the oceans drop by drop!

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