Ministers attending today’s North East Atlantic Environment Summit in Bergen have failed to take marine environmental issues seriously and have signed an unambitious ”Declaration of Delay”, ignoring a whole raft of urgent issues that demand action from them NOW, rather than vague commitments to do something in the future.

Ministers attending today’s North East Atlantic Environment Summit in Bergen have failed to take marine environmental issues seriously and have signed an unambitious ”Declaration of Delay”, ignoring a whole raft of urgent issues that demand action from them NOW, rather than vague commitments to do something in the future.

Despite calls on environment Ministers at the OSPAR Convention’s Ministerial Meeting by Seas At Risk and other environment NGOs to urgently protect threatened species and habitats and to prevent pollution from marine litter and deep sea oil drilling, a shamefully weak political message emerged from the meeting.

Seas At Risk is deeply disappointed that rather than commit to ambitious, time-bound targets, Ministers have preferred to delay action by up to several years.

In the case of marine litter, a huge environmental and economic problem, Ministers have failed to send a clear message that the North-East Atlantic should be litter-free, and that measures need to be taken now. A proposal from France (supported by Sweden, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands) to reduce marine litter by 40% in the OSPAR area by 2020 was torpedoed by the UK, and Ministers have postponed any decision on reduction targets and measures to effectively tackle the problem to 2012.

As for deep sea oil drilling, the Ministers chose to protect their oil drilling industries rather than the enviromnment and delayed any sort of action. A proposal from Germany for OSPAR to consider a Moratorium on deep water drilling was scuppered by Norway, UK and Denmark who can now continue with “business as usual” drilling while the circumstances of the Deep Water Horizon accident are being studied. Only in one year will OSPAR again assess whether it needs to respond to the outcome of those investigations and take preventative measures.

The 2010 deadline for achieving an ecologically coherent and well-managed network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the OSPAR maritime area was missed, and therefore a new deadline of 2012 has been set for the establishment of the network, and of 2016 for its effective management.

While the Ministers did agree to designate several MPAs in areas beyond national jurisdiction, including the first MPA completely outside any kind of national jurisdiction (the Milne Seamount Complex), they have failed to designate the complete area of the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone, a deep sea area whose value and need for protection was unanimously recognised by OSPAR in 2008. Resistance from Iceland, supported by the UK, Norway and Denmark, prevented this. Once again, the designation of the most important ecological features of the area as a marine protected area was postponed until 2012.

Out of 60 threatened and declining species and habitats, listed by OSPAR in 2003 as in need of urgent protection, only 6 were awarded protective measures at the meeting. A drop in the ocean, with the deadline for implementing measures for all of them being pushed back to 2013. The meeting has also failed to specifically mention necessary actions in the realm of fisheries management to protect these threatened and declining species and habitats.

Joint Environmental NGO Opening Statement to Ministers

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