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North Sea under severe pressure

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The House of Lords EU Committee has today called for a Ministerial Conference of North Sea countries to ensure we take a holistic approach to the development and management of environmental challenges and economic opportunities in the North Sea.

The Conference must deliver ‘the urgently needed strategic and political vision to sustain the North Sea and secure it for future generations’, the Committee said.

Conflicting demands

The Committee found that the North Sea is under increasing pressure from human activity, with the conflicting demands of preserving the sea and its biodiversity on the one hand and pressure for ‘blue growth’, which seeks to harness the economic potential of the North Sea, on the other.

‘The North Sea is one of the most industrialised seas in the world. We already have ships queuing to pass through sections of the sea basin and it is predicted that the space allocated to wind farms could increase fifty-fold in the next few years. That level of use places significant pressure on eco-systems in the North Sea.

‘If the North Sea is left uncoordinated, the conflict between environmental sustainability and economic growth will intensify. To avoid that, and to strike the right balance, we will need a coordinated and strategic approach. Despite some excellent ad hoc initiatives, we do not feel that such an approach is in place at the moment.’

Baroness Scott, Chair of the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment and Energy

Effective management

The recommendations come in the Committee’s report on EU regional marine co-operation. The Committee has been looking at the challenges to effective management of the North Sea and has identified a number of key issues and opportunities that must be addressed.

One of the problems identified by the Committee is that there is no single map or database plotting the myriad users of the North Sea. There is no shortage of data but it’s collected by a range of different agencies and isn’t used effectively.

‘We want the UK Government to take the lead in convening a Ministerial Conference of North Sea states to deliver the urgently needed strategic and political vision for the North Sea. We also think the Government should think harder about developing our own long term plan for the North Sea along the lines of the Dutch 2050 agenda…

‘There are clearly financial implications attached to membership, and we understand that times are hard for local authorities so we think the Government and the Local Government Association should look at how local authorities can be supported to play an active role in the North Sea Commission.’

Baroness Scott, Chair of the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment and Energy

While 34 regions from eight countries around the North Sea participate in the work of the Commission, only one English local authority is a member – compared with seven Scottish authorities and 13 from Norway.

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