The Government’s goal is for Norway to be a pioneer in developing an integrated, ecosystem-based management regime for marine areas. The Government will therefore continue to use the system of management plans for sea areas. An overall framework for petroleum activities will be established in the management plan for each sea area.
Purpose of the management plan
The purpose of this management plan is to provide a framework for the sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystem services derived from the North Sea and Skagerrak 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.
Intensively used and economically important
The North Sea–Skagerrak area is Norway’s most intensively used sea area and one of the most heavily trafficked in the world. Norwegian society derives major assets from its use. The bulk of Norway’s oil and gas production and thus value creation by the industry takes place in the North Sea. In addition, the North Sea is biologically productive. There are major fisheries in the area, which is fished by both coastal and deep-sea fishing vessels. Moreover, the Skagerrak is particularly important for small-scale fisheries, and is also the sea area of Norway that is most heavily used for outdoor recreation. The high level of activity combined with a number of potentially conflicting interests places considerable demands on the management regime.
Concern about the state of the environment
Since the 1970s, much has been done to improve the environmental status in the North Sea and Skagerrak, and particularly to reduce the pollution load. Nevertheless, the state of the environment still gives cause for concern and is unsatisfactory in many ways. These waters are naturally rich and productive, but the different types of pressures on the environment entail considerable management challenges. Concentrations of hazardous substances are higher in the North Sea and Skagerrak than in Norway’s other sea areas, and the concentration of marine litter is higher than anywhere else in the Northeast Atlantic. Water quality is good in the coastal current, but eutrophication and sediment deposition may affect water quality in near-coastal waters and fjords. Moreover, a number of seabird populations have declined and certain fish stocks are in poor condition. Climate change and ocean acidification are creating new challenges that will require a long-term approach to management of the North Sea and Skagerrak. This means that we need to take steps to improve environmental status and ecosystem resilience, and strengthen the basis for continued value creation through use and harvesting of the North Sea and Skagerrak.