North Sea Under Pressure

Written on the 23rd March, 2015

The House of Lords EU Committee has produced a report “The North Sea under pressure: is regional marine co-operation the answer?”   The answer seems largely to be ‘yes.’ The Committee is concerned that the North Sea is the under severe pressure from human activity and the Committee Chair, Baroness Scott, said that “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.” The Report calls for the UK Government to take the initiative and convene a Ministerial Conference of North Sea States to deliver the strategic and political vision that the North Sea needs.   The Committee looked at the challenges to the effective management of the North Sea and concluded that:-

  • The UK Government should produce a long term strategic plan for the North Sea along the lines of the Dutch North Sea 2050 Agenda.
  • Cross-border energy co-operation in the North Sea has enormous potential through the creation of a meshed energy grid but regulatory barriers remain.
  • There is no single map or database plotting the myriad uses of the North Sea and the Committee has called for a single cross-border data collection initiative.  The Committee thinks that the new European Marine Observation and Data network should take on the role.
  • English Local Authorities should play a bigger role in the stewardship of the North Sea by joining the North Sea Commission.
  • The Committee felt that the North Sea Fisheries Advisory Council was extremely valuable but under-resourced.

A number of other observers share the view that there needs to be much more cooperation in the North Sea.   Indeed cooperation was the word of the day coming from speakers at a European Commission organised workshop on Marine Spatial Planning and Energy held in Edinburgh in January 2015.  At this workshop, the European Commission stressed that a meshed grid was the most cost effective way of developing the North Sea Offshore Grid.

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