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National implementation of ecosystem-based ocean management in two Arctic states

Academic lecture
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Gunnar Sander
Gunnar Sander


Arctic Council is one of several multilateral arrangements that have recommended Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM). For EBM to protect vulnerable Arctic ecosystems, effective measures addressing threats from all relevant activities must be put into practice. This requires implementation in at least two steps: First states must translate such recommendations into their national legal and/or policy frameworks. Second, planning must identify policy responses to threats identified in assessments, and implement the measures effectively. Canada was a pioneer in enacting integrated ocean management already in 1996. The Ocean Act gave the mandate to one ministry, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). Trial projects were undertaken in five Large Ocean Management Areas. The federal Canadian government has been inconsistent in its support for these, and finally terminated the further pursuit of integration in 2013. Norwegian EBM originates from a deep political stride over the future of the petroleum activities. A coalition government took the initiative to make a management plan for the Barents Sea in 2001 as a new mechanism for handling the conflict, without enacting legislation for the purpose. Since then, management plans have been institutionalized and routine for Norway’s three management areas. The DFO delegated the planning to its own regional branches. The planning for the Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management Plan occurred according to collaborative planning by consensus. Participants from governments, industries and stakeholders concealed disagreements in high-level statements in a strategic plan. They also postponed harder decisions that would concretise the content to a later stage of action planning. This never occurred. As a result, no new measures have been implemented. The Norwegian government mobilized across ministries, both for producing assessments and for formulating policy responses to those in a management plan. The plan was made by the government in a top-down manner. Disagreements about policy were resolved ultimately at the highest political level of the coalition government, which was under pressure to reach internal compromises in order to survive. The plan was concrete on what were to be done, and most measures have been implemented afterwards. The two cases refute prior general conclusions about statutory based national frameworks more likely to be successful than policy based. Instead, they underscore the need for political support and active engagement from the top. This requires that planning meets political needs. The cases also demonstrate the need for a whole of government approach. Moreover, there are several lessons to be learned about handling of conflicts, policy design and the need for linking policy instruments to desired outcomes in the ocean.