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Nature Index values stable in marine waters

Target

1.1 Norwegian ecosystems will achieve good status and deliver ecosystem services.

Indicator

Ecological status and trends for the following major ecosystems: marine and coastal waters, rivers and lakes, wetlands, forest, mountains and cultural landscapes (see the Norwegian Nature Index and the Water Management Regulations)

Nature Index values for marine waters – seabed

Nature Index values for marine waters – pelagic

Source: www.naturindeks.no

Are we moving in the right direction? Published by the Norwegian Environment Agency

The state of biodiversity in marine ecosystems as measured by the Norwegian Nature Index has been stable since 2000. Pelagic marine ecosystems showed an improvement from 1990 to 2000, while the situation on the seabed has been generally stable.

In 2014, the Nature Index values for Norway as a whole were 0.70 for seabed ecosystems and 0.72 for pelagic ecosystems (in this system, the reference state is given the value 1, and is defined to correspond to minimal disturbance from human activities.)

In the Barents Sea, the cod stock is at a record level, and the cod and capelin stocks have both been stable and healthy since 2009.

In the Norwegian Sea, the state of biodiversity has been stable and Nature Index values high since around 2000, and the herring stock, and later the mackerel stock, have been growing.

Herring is a key species in the ecosystem because its numbers can fluctuate greatly, affecting many other species. Fishing pressure on herring was too high until the 1970s, and this resulted in a prolonged collapse of the stock. Since the 1990s, stocks of both herring and other pelagic schooling species such as mackerel have shown a positive trend. Blue whiting, which lives in rather deeper water, was fished heavily right up to the beginning of this century, and growth of the stock is still weak.

The breeding populations of seabirds in the Norwegian Sea, including fulmar, puffin and razorbill, have been declining since 1990. The reasons are not fully understood, but it is known that poor food supplies near breeding colonies, for example puffin colonies, have resulted in poor recruitment.

In the North Sea and Skagerrak, there has been a positive for some species since 2010, but stocks of key species such as sandeels and cod are still weak. The result is that the overall state of biodiversity has been relatively stable in recent years.

The satisfactory overall results for biodiversity in marine ecosystems can probably be linked to improvements in fisheries management since 1990. There are now measures in place to protect vulnerable stocks and prevent harvesting of fish under specific sizes, to allow growth and ensure recruitment to the mature stock. In addition, quotas are now based more on the precautionary principle to ensure sustainable management of fish stocks, and fishing vessels are not permitted to discard catches. Technological developments have helped to reduce bycatches by improving the selectivity of fishing gear so that the right species and sizes can be targeted more effectively.