Purpose of the management plan
The purpose of this 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, functioning, productivity and diversity of the area’s ecosystems. The management plan is thus a tool for both facilitating value creation and maintaining the high environmental value of the area.
Management plans for all Norwegian sea areas
The management plan for the Barents Sea–Lofoten area was first announced in the white paper Protecting the Riches of the Sea (Report No. 12 (2001–2002) to the Storting) and was submitted as 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). The white paper was discussed by the Storting in spring 2006, and was the first management plan for a Norwegian Sea area.
The white paper Integrated Management of the Marine Environment of the Norwegian Sea (Report No. 37 (2008–2009) to the Storting) was submitted and debated by the Storting in spring 2009. The Government intends to present a management plan for the Norwegian part of the North Sea and the Skagerrak in 2013, thus establishing management plans as the basis for integrated ecosystem-based management of all Norwegian sea areas.
The management plans clarify the overall framework and encourage closer coordination and clear priorities for management of Norway’s sea areas. They increase predictability and facilitate coexistence between industries that are based on the use of these sea areas and their natural resources.
First update of this management plan
In the 2006 management plan for the Barents Sea–Lofoten area, the Government decided that an updated plan was to be presented for the first time in 2010. The present update is based on the expansion of the knowledge base that has taken place since 2006. A report on the scientific basis for updating the management plan for the Barents Sea–Lofoten area was drawn up by 26 directorates and research institutes organised in three groups: the Management Forum (headed by the Norwegian Polar Institute), the Forum on Environmental Risk Management (headed by the Norwegian Coastal Administration) and the Advisor y Group on Monitoring (headed by the Institute of Marine Research). They presented a joint report on 15 April 2010. On the following day, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate presented its report on oil and gas resources in the waters off the Lofoten and Vesterålen Islands and Senja. Various supplementary studies have also been used as a basis for updating the management plan, including a review of spin-off effects and economic consequences of expanding oil and gas activities in the waters off the Lofoten and Vesterålen Islands and Senja, and an assessment of the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 drawn up by the Forum on Environmental Risk Management. The scientific basis and supplementary studies were made available for public consultation. More than 80 responses were received, and these supplement the scientific basis on which the management plan is based.
The management plan has been updated on the basis of both existing and new knowledge about ecosystems, ecological goods and services and resources that are important as a basis for value creation in the management plan area, and about trends in environmental status, pressures and impacts on the environment, and environmental risk. The scientific basis has been supplemented with studies assessing commercial activities and social conditions and ecological goods and services, with a particular focus on the waters off the Lofoten and Vesterålen Islands and Senja.
Since the management plan was presented in 2006, the main thrust of efforts to meet needs for further knowledge has been mapping of the sea- bed, seabird populations and the geology of the area. The MAREANO programme for mapping of the seabed, the SEAPOP programme for seabirds, and the collection of seismic data on subsea petroleum resources have been particularly important in expanding the knowledge base. The work has focused on the waters off the Lofoten and Vesterålen Islands and Senja, and the Eggakanten area along the edge of the continental shelf. These areas were selected in 2006 because they were of interest for the oil and gas industry and had also been identified as particularly valuable and vulnerable. The SEAPOP programme has provided more information on the distribution of seabirds in the Barents Sea–Lofoten area. Information on inputs of hazardous substances to Norwegian Sea areas has also been considerably improved through coordinated monitoring programmes. Furthermore, the knowledge base on the impacts, scale and pace of climate change and ocean acidification has been strengthened. There has been further development of the knowledge needed to carry out assessments of the risk of accidents and the impacts of acute pollution. The importance of the Barents Sea–Lofoten area in economic terms and the value of its ecosystem services now have a more prominent place in the knowledge base.
It is an important principle that all management of the natural environment must be knowledge-based. Since the establishment of a coordinated monitoring system, information on status and trends for species, habitats and ecosystems has been built up and more systematically adapted to a knowledge-based management regime. The monitoring system is still being developed.