As described in the introduction (chapter Introduction), this report will be used as a basis for developing ecosystem based management in the Barents Sea. The report is intended to establish the status for the entire Barents Sea ecosystem. It forms an information basis for establishing a management plan for the Russian part of the ecosystem and provide support for further developing the ecosystem based management plan for Norwegian waters in the area (The Royal Norwegian Ministry of the Environment 2005-2006).
Here, we discuss examples of issues that should be focused in a management plan for the Barents Sea. A short description of some of the principles of the management plan established on the Norwegian side is given first. Then, it is described shortly what types of issues that will be discussed in this chapter. The issues themselves are described in details in all subchapters under chapter Issues of importance for ecosystem based management, each dealing with one or a few of the types of human activities that takes place in the Barents Sea.
The purpose of the Norwegian management plan is to provide a framework for the sustainable use of natural resources and goods derived from the Barents Sea-Lofoten area and at the same time maintain the structure, function and productivity of the area’s ecosystems. A central principle in the plan is that a set of goals for the environment is set up. Some examples of goals are:
Management of the Barents Sea–Lofoten area will ensure that diversity at ecosystem, habitat, species and genetic levels, and the productivity of ecosystems, are maintained. Human activity in the area will not damage the structure, functioning, productivity or dynamics of ecosystems.
Releases and inputs of pollutants to the Barents Sea–Lofoten area will not result in injury to health or damage the productivity of the natural environment and its capacity for self-renewal. Activities in the area will not result in higher levels of pollutants.
These goals are evaluated yearly, and an important part of the following up of the plan is therefore to gather the information necessary to assess to which extent the goals are met. In this process, emphasis is also put on identifying gaps in knowledge about the ecosystem and how it is influenced by human activities.
Typically, a goal is not met if human activities have impact on components of the ecosystem or there is a significant risk of such impact in the future. In addition, some goals may fail to be met even if there is no impact on the ecosystem. For example, the latter of the two goals listed above is not met if there are elevated levels of pollutants in the Barents Sea, even if these pollutants do not have any effects on species in the ecosystem. In this chapter, the following types of themes will be discussed as issues to be considered for the development of ecosystem based management:
- Instances where impact of human activities on the ecosystem has been demonstrated or is likely
- Instances where there is a risk for such impact from future activities
- Instances where there is no significant impact in the ecosystem but it has been shown or might be expected that the situation deviates from goals that we can expect that an ecosystem based management plan will have
Although the highlighted themes are core issues for ecosystem-based management in the Barents Sea, it should be emphasized that no attempt is made to give a complete list of relevant themes. Rather, in the following subchapters, examples of potentially important issues are described for each type of human activities. Gaps in knowledge will also be discussed. Also here, no attempt is made to give a complete list of knowledge gaps but rather highlight some important ones. It should also be noted that the effects of climate change is not listed as a theme here. This is because this theme is typically dealt with in other management processes than ecosystem based management plans.