NORWAY - Cold water coral protection - setting an international example in marine conservation

Posted on 01 June 2003

Coral reefs are one of the oldest types of living systems on Earth and are critically important for a number of species and for fisheries and biodiversity of the oceans. Norwegian waters support little-explored cold water Lophelia coral reefs of international importance. Norway's reefs have been under pressure for decades from a variety of threats, including bottom-trawling, mineral extraction, and oil and gas exploration.

To save these reefs for the future, Norwegian authorities have imposed a series of protective measures. All deliberate destruction of coral reefs is prohibited through the 1999 Coral Protection Regulation. More recently, Norway has taken specific action to protect several reefs, including the world's largest known cold water reef, from harmful bottom-trawling.

Furthermore, a national 'Marine Conservation Plan' is under development to ensure improved protection of the corals and other valuable marine habitats. In addition to the national action taken to protect corals, Norway also promotes improved coral protection beyond Norwegian waters in relevant international fora, like the OSPAR Convention.

It is estimated that between 30-50% of the Norwegian Lophelia reefs were already damaged before the protective measures were taken. Elsewhere in the North-East Atlantic, the destruction of cold water reefs continues without protective measures. WWF is working to promote the conservation of cold water coral reefs in the North-East Atlantic, but to date, Norway is the only country that has turned nice words into concrete conservation actions.

Norway's actions constitute an international pilot example of cold water coral conservation. WWF recognizes this as a Gift to the Earth - a globally significant conservation action which demonstrates environmentally responsible leadership and is an inspiration to others.
Cold- or Deep-water coral (Lophelia pertusa), Norway.
Cold- or Deep-water coral (Lophelia pertusa), Norway.
© WWF / Erling SVENSEN