Demarcation line between Russia and Norway must be environmentally mapped

Publish date: September 14, 2010

Translated by: Charles Digges

Today Norway and Russia signed a long discussed treaty establishing a demarcation line between the two counties’ waters, a crucial step both in terms of how each country will oversee potential oil drilling in the Artic Region, but also an important inroad for Norway to influence Russia in environmental and political matters.

Bellona and the Norwegian-based Nature and Youth demand a thorough environmental survey of the new areas each country has acquired as part of the management plan for the Barents Sea and areas off Norway’s Northern Lofoten Islands.

With two pen strokes the old grey zone diving the countries’ Arctic holdings in the Barents Sea were made history as foreign ministers Jonas Gahr Store of Norway and Sergei Lavrov of Russia today sign the boundary agreement in Murmansk.

The new agreement includes a clarification ownership of a disputed 175,000 square kilometre area in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean, where it is assumed there are great resources in fishing, oil, and gas.

Warnings against new oil operations

Talk of a new oil race to the area has been a hot topic long before the demarcation line was agreed to by the two countries.

“The new treaty must not be used as an opportunity to open new, vulnerable areas for oil exploration,” said Bellona President Frederic Hauge.

Haugue expects instead that the new border agreement will be used to guide Russia in the right direction when it comes to the environment and democratic reform.

“Norway must use the momentum from this agreement to create consensus on several of the major environmental problems we must solve together with the Russians, “said Frederic Hauge.

More environmental information needed

While Norway and Russia are now agreed on the distribution of the previously undefined area in the Arctic seas, the Management plan for the Barents Sea and the Sea Areas off the Lofoten Islands is undergoing revision. In connection with ongoing consultations, the Friends of the Earth Norway, Bellona and Nature and Youth will set out clear requirements in a statement.

“We need to look at the management of this large new area in the context of the rest of the North. We therefore demand that a thorough environmental survey of the previously grey area be conducted in the overall management plan for the Barents Sea and the waters off the Lofoten islands, “said Lars Haltbrekken, head of Friends of the Earth Norway.

Haltbrekken added that, “This must be done before one can make a decision on any form of oil-related activity in this important area. We need new information about climate change, ice problems, acidification of the sea and oil spill preparedness.”

Going against the adopted climate change policies

Prior to the signing of the boundary agreement, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said that it follows that seismic surveys should begin soon to determine the quantity of  resources exist that in the area, and he signalled that a new oil adventure is in the offing.  

“The Prime Minister likes to talk about Norway’s climate commitments. But still has yet to act on those boasts here at home. To open to oil exploration in the north is to go against adopted Norwegian climate policy,” said Ola Skålvik Elvevold, head of the Nature and Youth.

“There is a lot of cold water in the Barents Sea, and we have to be cool headed and cannot let oil intoxication rule,” said Elvevold.

The joint consultative opinion from the environmental organizations is expected by the end of September.

Contacts for the press:
Ola Skålvik Elvevold, Nature and Youth. Tel +47 41 68 50 31
Lars Haltbrekken, Nature Conservation Association,  Norway. Tel + 47 91 61 21 91
Ruth Astrid L Seter, Information Adviser, Bellona. Tel. + 47 92 86 88 11