The summary presented below is based on 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. Russian version: Комплексное управление морской средой Баренцева моря и морских районов, прилегающих к Лофотенским островам (план управления). Доклад правительства Стортингу No 8 (2005–2006).
The Government’s proposal was presented in 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). This was the first integrated management plan developed for a Norwegian marine area, and was debated in the Storting in spring 2006. The 2006 white paper states that the management plan will be a living document and will be revised at regular intervals. The Government would: 1) regularly assess the need to follow up and update the management plan; and 2) assess the overall need for new measures to achieve the plan’s goals, based on the status reports to be submitted from 2010 onwards.
The purpose of the management plan is to provide a framework for the sustainable use of natural resources and goods derived from the Barents Sea and the sea areas off the Lofoten Islands (subsequently referred to as the Barents Sea–Lofoten area) (Figure 6.4.1) and at the same time maintain the structure, functioning, and productivity of the ecosystems of the area. The plan is intended to clarify the overall framework for both existing and new activities in these waters. The Government considers it very important to encourage broad-based and varied industrial development in Northern Norway. It is, therefore, important to facilitate the co-existence of different industries: particularly fisheries; maritime transport; and petroleum extraction. The management plan highlights issues where further work is required to ensure that these industries continue to co-exist effectively. The plan is also instrumental to ensure that business interests, local, regional and central authorities, environmental organisations and other interest groups all have a common understanding of management goals for the Barents Sea–Lofoten area. The plan focuses on the environmental framework for sustainable use of this sea area. Spin-off effects on onshore business and industry in Northern Norway and on value creation in the region are therefore not treated here. The Government will initiate separate processes to deal with these issues at a later date.
The management plan emphasises that special precautions are needed to protect certain areas covered where the environment and natural resources are considered to be particularly valuable and vulnerable. Based on scientific assessments, these areas are recognised to be of great importance for biodiversity and biological production in the entire Barents Sea–Lofoten area. Adverse impacts to these areas might persist for many years. Important criteria used to identify these areas were that they support: high biological production; high concentrations of species; and/or endangered or vulnerable habitats. Additional important criteria included their function as key habitats for either: endangered or vulnerable species; species for which Norway has a special responsibility; or internationally or nationally important populations of certain species (year round or seasonal). Vulnerability was assessed with respect to specific environmental pressures such as oil pollution, fluctuating in food supply, and physical damage. Vulnerability varies from one time of year to another.
Areas identified as particularly valuable and vulnerable include: between the Lofoten Islands and Tromsøflaket Bank; Eggakanten; a zone off Finnmark County stretching 50 km outwards from the baseline; the marginal ice zone; the polar front; the coastal zone of Bjørnøya and the rest of Svalbard (Figure 6.4.2). These areas represent key spawning grounds and egg and larval transport zones for commercially important fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic, such as Northeast Arctic cod and herring. Several of these areas are also important as breeding, moulting, or wintering areas for internationally important seabird populations, such as the lesser black-backed gull (subspecies Larus fuscus fuscus), Steller’s eider, and Atlantic puffin. In addition, areas identified include valuable and vulnerable habitats for communities of benthic fauna such as cold-water corals (the largest known cold-water coral reef is off Røst in the Lofoten Islands) and sponges.
The Government has attached great importance to obtaining a sound scientific basis for the management plan. Information was compiled on environmental conditions, commercial activities in the Barents Sea–Lofoten area, and social conditions in North Norway to provide a common factual basis for impact assessments. Impact assessments have been carried out for human activities which may affect the state of the environment or the natural resource base in this area, including: fisheries; petroleum extraction; maritime transport; and other potential commercial activities.
Figure 6.4.1. Management plan area of the Barents Sea and the waters off Lofoten. Source: The updating of the management plan for the marine environment in the Barents Sea and the waters off the Lofoten Islands ((Report No. 10 (2010–2011) to the Storting). Cartography: Norwegian Polar Institute 2011. Source for depth data: IBCAO.
Figure 6.4.2. Especially valuable and vulnerable areas in the Barents Sea-Lofoten (green areas). Source: The updating of the management plan for the marine environment in the Barents Sea and the waters off the Lofoten Islands ((Report No. 10 (2010–2011) to the Storting). Cartography: Norwegian Polar Institute 2011. Source for depth data: IBCAO.
Nevertheless, there are knowledge gaps to understanding the varying physical, chemical, and biological processes which determine marine ecosystems. In response to gaps which have been identified, the Government intends to introduce a better-coordinated monitoring system to assess ecosystem status; it will use indicators, reference values, and action thresholds to provide a basis for more systematic evaluation of ecosystem trends in the area.
Norwegian authorities implemented the plan with ambitious goals for future management of the Barents Sea–Lofoten area to ensure that: the state of the environment is maintained where it is good; and that where problems have been identified, the state of the environment will be improved. One goal is to ensure that activities in particularly valuable and vulnerable areas are conducted in a way that does not threaten ecological functioning or biodiversity. Populations of endangered and vulnerable species, and species for which Norway has a special responsibility, are to be maintained or restored to viable levels. Unintentional negative impacts on such species as a result of activities in the Barents Sea–Lofoten area are to be reduced.
The management plan acknowledges that there are challenges to be dealt with, particularly with regard to long-range transport and trans-boundary pollution. Another central issue is the risk of, and response to, acute oil pollution. The plan emphasises environmental risks associated with acute pollution from maritime transport, and advises a cautious approach to the expansion of petroleum activities. Based on an evaluation of the areas that have been identified as particularly valuable and vulnerable, an assessment of the risk of acute oil pollution, and an evaluation of interactions with the fisheries industry, a new framework has been established for petroleum activities in these areas (NEA, 2011).