Agreements concerning pollution

Plastic found in seabird gut (Photo: NPI)

Adopting and Adapting an Ecosystem Approach to Management 2013
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International agreements and conventions, both globally and regionally, are of major importance to control and reduce pollution of the Barents Sea. These agreements include regulation of activities and restrictions or bans on use of hazardous substances. One of the most important is the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which both Norway and Russia have adopted. It entered into force in 1994 and lays down fundamental international rules for all

maritime activities. It constitutes the overall legal framework for activities in and management of the Barents Sea. The convention establishes rights and duties that apply to both Norway and Russia as coastal states regarding protection of the environment, jurisdiction over maritime transport, and utilization of living marine resources as well as petroleum- and energy resources.

In accordance with the Law of the Sea, the states have a duty to preserve and protect the marine environment. To reach this goal the states should implement necessary measures in accordance with the Convention. States are especially invited to cooperate both globally and regionally when formulating international rules, standards, and recommendations with regard to the protection of the marine environment. In the North-East Atlantic, there is active regional cooperation under auspices of the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR). OSPAR’s mission is to conserve marine ecosystems and safeguard human health in the North-East Atlantic by preventing and eliminating pollution, by protecting the marine environment from adverse effects of human activities, and by contributing to the sustainable use of the seas. OSPAR’s Region 1 covers Norwegian and Russian parts of the Barents Sea. Thus far, the Russian Federation is not a party to OSPAR.

One of the first global conventions to protect the marine environment from human activities is the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter from 1972, also known as the ‘London Convention’. Its objective is to promote the effective control of all sources of marine pollution and to take all practicable steps to prevent pollution of the sea by dumping of wastes and other matter. Norway and the Russian Federation are both parties to this Convention.

As long-range transport of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and certain metals from the rest of the world is the most important pollution-related pressure on the Barents Sea, international conventions and agreements concerning reduction in use and bans of hazardous substances are of major importance. The Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution and the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants are important global conventions regulating and/or banning use of the most hazardous POPs.

In Russia, responsibility for control and protection of the environment is given to legislative authorities at all levels, from the Duma to local municipalities. Executive power is also distributed from the federal to the regional level. Legislative authorities develop legal acts to improve the ecological situation, based on their own initiatives or input from the executive branch. Generally, all Russian federal laws in effect to protect the environment comply with respective international conventions, including the Law of the Sea that was ratified in 1984. Since 2008, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology has been the single federal organ with executive power to develop normative acts, prescribe maximum-allowed levels of pollution and biota, and issue control rules for pollution and damage estimates. Under the umbrella of the Ministry of Natural Resources, there are the several organizations to carry out nature protection functions.

The Joint Russian-Norwegian Environmental Commission has and continues to promote: increase general understanding of the extent and effects of pollution in the northern areas; strengthen collaboration regarding control, monitoring, and prevention of pollution to the environment and the handling of waste. Under the umbrella of the Environmental Commission, a joint Norwegian-Russian Expert Group was established in 1992 to ensure nuclear safety and radiation protection in the north (Hønnland and Rowe, 2008). To strengthen co-operation between Norway and Russia in the nuclear safety arena, the Norwegian government’s Nuclear Action Plan was initiated in 1995 and revised in 2008. For its execution, the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority serves as the directorate for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Nuclear Action Plan contributes to reduce the risk of accidents and pollution from nuclear installations in Northwest Russia and prevent radioactive and fissile material from going astray. It is the most important management tool of the Norwegian authorities in their nuclear safety efforts with Russia. Nuclear safety co-operation is built on several bilateral collaboration agreements (see The Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority closely collaborates with a number of Russian governmental agencies and supervisory authorities in the area of nuclear safety, radiation protection, preparedness, and environmental monitoring.

Long-range transport of pollutants — especially persistent organic pollutants (POPs), radionuclides, and certain metals — is currently the most important pollutant-related pressure on the Barents Sea. This is also the main source for accumulation of POPs in arctic top predators, and the main reason that environmental goals are not met (AMAP, 2010). To ensure that the Barents Sea remains clean and species rich in the future, knowledge of transport routes and changes in transport routes due to e.g. climatic change, regulating the use of new chemicals is important.