Gothenburg, May 5th 2006.

Ministers today ensured the sad end to a once proud process of international cooperation to protect the North Sea. Today’s special meeting, the last in a long series of interministerial North Sea Conference events stretching back to 1984, was convened in recognition of the very significant threat still posed to the environment of the North Sea by the shipping and fishing industries.

Gothenburg, May 5th 2006.

Ministers today ensured the sad end to a once proud process of international cooperation to protect the North Sea. Today’s special meeting, the last in a long series of interministerial North Sea Conference events stretching back to 1984, was convened in recognition of the very significant threat still posed to the environment of the North Sea by the shipping and fishing industries.

Seas At Risk is deeply disappointed that instead of the bold and decisive interventions that have been the hallmark of past North Sea Conference events, Ministers either failed to turn up or, having travelled to Gothenburg, failed to provide the political leadership that is so urgently needed.

At its best the ministerial declaration adopted by the meeting is little more than a restatement of existing agreements and initiatives; at its worst it undermines previous commitments both within the North Sea Conference process and in other forums.

A particular concern is the meeting’s failure to respect the 2001 EU Gothenburg Summit’s commitment to halt biopersity loss by 2010. “North Sea ministers should have acted to ensure this target is met” said Monica Verbeek, Fisheries Policy Officer at Seas At Risk. “Instead they have chosen to adopt by 2010 a fisheries ecosystem plan and technical guidelines for the assessment of the environmental impact of fishing activities. This in itself will not halt biopersity loss and guarantees that the 2010 target will be missed.”

On shipping Ministers failed to progress some of the most basic issues: “Despite an EU funded report recommending uniform approaches and the removal of explicit charges for the use of port waste reception facilities, Ministers failed to agree a North Sea-wide approach” said John Maggs, Shipping Policy Officer at Seas At Risk. “The illegal dumping of ship waste at sea will only be properly dealt with when North Sea States remove the financial obstacles to the use of port waste reception facilities”.

Previous interministerial North Sea Conference meetings have taken bold decisions and set the scene for protection of the marine environment. At today’s final meeting ministers lacked the courage to do this and decided instead to merely to follow developments in other forums, deserting the sinking ship of the North Sea Conference process.