Oil companies and many regional politicians want to open the waters outside Lofoten archipelago north of Norway’s Arctic Circle for drilling. They argue oil exploration will create new jobs and a boost in regional development.
Others, including the majority of the fishermen in the area are calling for protection of the vulnerable waters, a key area for the regions important fisheries.
Speaking at a conference in Svolvær, the largest town in Lofoten, oil and energy minister Ola Borten told the audience on Friday that his goal is ultimately to open the area for petroleum drilling. But, not now.
“I take the signals from local fisheries seriously. Therefor I recommend the opening of new acreage for now,” Ola Borten Moe said in the speech is that was video transmitted via the portal of the ministry.
Ola Borten Moe argues that the time until 2017 will be used to collect more data and background information. A final decision on drilling or not will then be based on more knowledge about consequences for both fisheries, environment and society.
The minister says it is important to find new discoveries and arrange for long-term, good resource management on the Norwegian continental shelf.
“When I still think we can afford to wait with the opening of the northeastern Norwegian Sea [outside Lofoten] now, is it because I have a good hope that the Parliament before next election will open the southeastern part of the Barents Sea and the area around Jan Mayen for petroleum activities. Then, we can continue with Nordland VI,” says Ola Borten Moe.
Nordland VI is the waters southwest of Lofoten.
The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate spent about €54 million on the collection of seismic data from the Lofoten and Vesterålen waters in the period 2007-2009. The areas are believed to be among the most prospective not-yet-opened on the Norwegian shelf.