The North Sea and Skagerrak

The North Sea and Skagerrak are more strongly influenced by human activity than the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea: they contain some of the busiest shipping routes in the world and support intensive fisheries and a large-scale oil and gas industry. Climate change and ocean acidification are expected to have increasing impacts in the future.
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An integrated management plan for Norway’s part of the North Sea and Skagerrak is being drawn up, on the same pattern as the management plans for the Barents Sea–Lofoten area and the Norwegian Sea. An expert group with representatives of 14 different government agencies and research institutions finalised the scientific basis for the management plan in spring 2012. The management plan itself is due to be published in 2013.

There is considerable concern about cumulative environmental effects on ecosystems in the North Sea and Skagerrak, particularly the impacts of hazardous substances, nutrients, bottom trawling and fisheries more generally, marine litter and underwater noise.

In the time ahead, climate change and ocean acidification are expected to intensify and have greater impacts, increasing ecosystem vulnerability. A higher sea temperature will result in changes in ecosystems. For example, warmer-water species such as sardines and anchovy are likely to become established, while other species disappear. Moreover, we know that CO2 emissions are making the seas more acidic. Ocean acidification may become one of the greatest threats to marine life both in these waters and elsewhere.