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Norway to Revise Barents Sea Oil and Gas Boundary

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By The Maritime Executive 04-25-2020 06:48:50

The Norwegian Government has announced revised management plans for Norway’s sea areas – including a shift of the boundary for oil and gas activities in the Barents Sea south to the line where ice is found on average on 15 percent of the days in April.

“The northern part of the Barents Sea is the richest and biologically most productive ocean area in the Arctic. Climate change is making the marginal ice zone and the species that live there more vulnerable to external pressures such as oil spills. Using 15 percent ice persistence – or the probability of finding ice – to delimit this zone will give stronger protection to the environment and reduce the risk of damage to vulnerable species and ecosystems,” said Minister of Climate and Environment Sveinung Rotevatn.

The purpose of the new management plans for the Barents Sea - Lofoten area, the Norwegian Sea and the North Sea and Skagerrak is to balance sustainable use with the high environmental value of Norway’s marine areas.

This is the first time all of Norway’s integrated marine management plans have been presented together in one white paper. The white paper seeks to address the needs of various sectors that are important for the Norwegian economy, including fisheries and aquaculture, shipping and petroleum activities, and to incorporate environmental considerations and the need to protect marine ecosystems. It also considers the framework for the development of emerging industries such as offshore wind power, extraction of minerals from the seabed, carbon storage below the seabed and hydrogen production. 

Prime Minister Erna Solberg said: “The revised management plan for the Barents Sea–Lofoten area includes a new definition of the boundary of the marginal ice zone,” she said. “This definition is based on the latest knowledge and ice data, and on the need to give even more weight to environmental considerations. The new definition of the marginal ice zone will have little effect on the parts of the Barents Sea that are already open for petroleum activities.”   

None of the production licenses that have already been awarded will be affected.

Solberg said: “For 50 years, we have succeeded in maintaining a balance between oil production and fisheries. And we will manage this balancing act just as well in the time ahead, as seabed mining, offshore wind power and offshore fish farming expand and become more important.”