Northern European Marine Environment Gets Official Attention

GOTHENBORG, Sweden, October 16, 2001 (ENS) - To reduce the effects of radioactive contamination, marine litter, and oil pollution from shipping on coastal communities in northern Europe, Swedish Environment Minister Kjell Larsson has offered to host an intergovernmental ministerial meeting as early as 2003.

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Swedish Environment Minister Kjell Larsson (Photo courtesy Gotesborg University)
Larsson made the offer while addressing the international environmental organization that represents 100 coastal local authorities in northern Europe meeting here this past weekend to celebrate its 11th anniversary. Delegates from local councils of eight countries attended the Kommunenes Internasjonale Miljoorganisation (KIMO) gathering to discuss marine pollution issues that affect their coastal communities.

The Swedish environment minister opened the annual conference by underlining his government's support for KIMO's objectives in protecting the marine environment. He highlighted moves he and fellow Nordic Council Ministers have taken to pressure the UK government to stop radioactive discharges from the British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. reprocessing plant at Sellafield on the Irish Sea.

Larsson confirmed that a report on the recent investigation of munitions dumps in the Skagerrak Strait would be released shortly and that a monitoring program will be implemented. The Skagerrak Strait, about 140 kilometers (85 miles) wide, lies between Norway and Denmark, linking the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

Guest speakers included representatives from Total/Fina/Elf, the County Administration of Västra Götaland and the Kristineberg Marine Research Station. The presentations covered issues such as the Frigg Oil Field decommissioning plans, the biodiversity of the Swedish West Coast, and chemical weapons and munitions dumping in the Skagerrak Strait.

KIMO has expressed opposition to a proposal by the Japanese Federation of Electric Power Companies of an Arctic route for nuclear waste shipments from France and the UK to Japan.

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Marine litter on the British Cumbrian coast (Photo courtesy Cumbria Marine Litter Project)
The communities KIMO represents all depend on a clean environment and the perception that they inhabit a pristine marine environment that produces clean raw materials. This is the basis of survival for many small remote northern rural and island communities. The irreparable damage to this image which could arise as a result of an accident involving a ship or aircraft carrying nuclear waste could have disastrous consequences on local economies, KIMO says.

At KIMO's Annual General Meeting eight new resolutions were agreed covering such issues as: air pollution and ozone depleting CFC emissions from shipping, nuclear shipment issues, and the need to revamp the compensation and liability regimes for large pollution disasters such as the Erika oil tanker spill in December 1999.

A KIMO spokesperson said, "The comments made by the Swedish Environment Minister were very positive and his offer to host a ministerial meeting on shipping activities were welcomed by delegates. The wide range of topics that delegates considered this year fully demonstrates the value of the organization in collectively addressing issues of common concern for coastal authorities."

"Longstanding issues such as marine litter and pollution of the seas continue to be a focus of our attention. But there are new issues affecting public health such as the increasing impacts of air pollution from ships in harbors near population centers and the unsatisfactory international and national compensation regimes for oil pollution," the spokesman said.

"The longstanding grievances for outstanding claims on major oil pollution from disasters such as the Braer in 1993, Sea Empress in 1995, and Erika in 1999, fully illustrates that the polluter pays principle is not being delivered," he said.

KIMO is an international association of Local Authorities and associated organizations. It was formally founded in Esbjerg, Denmark, in August 1990 to work towards cleaning up pollution in the Northern Seas. Beginning with four communities in three countries, it now has over 100 members representing over five million people in the UK, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Faeroe Islands, The Netherlands and Ireland with associate members in Germany and the Isle of Man. The Shetland Islands Council hosts the organization's secretariat.

With its Secretariat based in the Shetland Islands, KIMO's area of responsibility now includes the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the Irish Sea, the North East Atlantic and the Arctic Sea.