HC Deb 16 April 2002 vol 383 cc880-1W
Llew Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on matters discussed and decisions taken at the ministerial conference on the North sea, held in Bergen, in March; and if she will place in the Library copies of all United Kingdom submissions to the conference and submissions by other Governments and accredited bodies that are relevant to the United Kingdom. [47663]

Mr. Meacher

The fifth North Sea Conference was held in Bergen, Norway, on 20 and 21 March. I represented the UK and was supported by Allan Wilson, Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development at the Scottish Executive.

The Conference received a report on progress made in taking forward the commitments made at the fourth North Sea Conference held in Esbjerg, Denmark, in 1995. The outcome of the fifth North Sea Conference was a declaration for further action to protect the marine environment of the North Sea. It covered establishing an ecosystem approach, the conservation of habitats and species, fisheries, shipping, hazardous substances, eutrophication, offshore installations, radioactive substances, renewable energy, marine litter and waste management, spatial planning and future co-operation.

The Conference was very successful in producing an agreed declaration which provides a worthwhile step for the further protection of the marine environment. Key initiatives include a commitment to develop and pilot ecological quality objectives to assess progress made towards an ecosystem-based approach, a commitment to designate relevant areas of the North Sea as a network of well-managed marine protected areas by 2010 and the creation of a network of investigators and prosecutors to tackle pollution from shipping. It was also agreed that Sweden would host a Ministerial meeting on the environmental impacts of shipping and fishing by 2006.

The declaration also contains proposals to work through the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic to develop guidance on offshore wind energy schemes and consider how best to share information on spatial planning for the North Sea. It also endorses further work through OSPAR to tackle pollution from hazardous substances, offshore installations, radioactive substances and the prevention of eutrophication.

I have placed copies of both the progress report and the declaration in the Library of the House. They are also available at http://www.northseaconference.no.

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