17 May 2006
North Sea Conference in Gothenburg - "Towards a better North Sea environment "

At the ministerial meeting of the North Sea Conference in Gothenburg, on 3-5 May, Ministers from eight North Sea countries and officials from the European Commission met for two days to discuss measures to reduce the impact of fishery and shipping in the North Sea.

The work of the North Sea Conference bares relevance for the North Sea Programme on many levels, not only because they cover the same geographical area but also a number of the issues discussed are closely linked to projects within the programme. The North Sea Conference and the North Sea Programme also share the same overall goal of course, to promote the quality of life on all levels for the people in the region.

After final negotiations on the draft a regulation was signed by the countries representatives, providing a platform for the important work on fishing and environmental issues to be resolved in the years to come.

Furthermore, Mr. Stavros Dimas, EU Commissioner, announced the publication of the Green Paper on Maritime Policy, which will be issued on the 7th of June. He also took the opportunity to
Representatives of the North Sea Programme visited the conference and two (three) projects from the programme had exhibitions during the event. Safety at Sea, Skagerak and Fishing for litter (a spin-off from Save the North Sea, a previous project in the programme). Find more information on the website of the Swedish government.

Read more about the outcomes...

Important steps forward at the North Sea Conference in Gothenburg

  • The negotiations have been tough, but important steps have been taken. We will reduce the nitrogen oxides with 40 percent and strengthen the requirements of the sulphide emission down to 1 %. These reductions are crucial if we are to improve the air quality and reduce the acidification, commented the Minister for the Environment, Lena Sommestad, who chaired the negotiations.

Decisions relating to shipping in the declaration:

  • Clean ship
    The concept Clean Ship is launched which means that criteria for evaluating environmental performance of ships are developed and used as an incentive to encourage sustainable shipping.
  • Improved air in port cities
    This will be possible by increased use of shore side electricity for ships in ports. Sweden took as the first country an initiative to tax relief for shore side electricity which will contribute to improve the air quality in Swedish ports.

Decisions relating to fishing in the Minister Declaration:

  • We agreed to develop and introduce environmental impact assessments of new fishing methods and gear. This is something new and very important for the North Sea environment, said Lena Sommestad.

Among other important decisions taken by the ministers were:

  • Reduce by-catch
    The objective is to reduce the by-catch of marine mammals to less than one percent of the best population estimate.
  • Support of pilot project of fishing days
    The ministers agreed to support the pilot project of fishing days in Kattegat that starts next year and if the experiences are positive it can be extended to all fishing in the North Sea.
  • Ban on discard
    Measures to minimize discards will be taken, including a ban on high grading. The effects of these measurements will be evaluated by 2008.
  • Strengthening the control of fishing
    To reduce the illegal fishing an improved control- and sanction system is proposed and a North Sea Network of Cooperation on fisheries offences between national investigation and prosecution agencies will be established.
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