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As two of the 250 scientists who supported 14 heads of state in crafting the agreement for 100% sustainable ocean management by 2025 that was announced in December (see E. Solberg Nature 588, 9; 2020), we are deeply concerned. Just weeks later, Norway — co-leader of the initiative — announced 61 new licences for oil and gas exploration, and it plans to permit sea-bed mining as early as 2023. Such ‘business as usual’ is antithetical to the commitments Prime Minister Erna Solberg communicated in this journal.

A summary of the scientific input to the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (HLP) emphasized that “continued or increased offshore oil and gas exploration is conceptually difficult to align with the definition of a sustainable ocean economy” (see We would like our work to inform, rather than ‘science-wash’, political agendas.

When HLP countries presented their commitments, Nature emphasized the need to develop accountability measures (see Nature 588, 7–8; 2020). No one expected that such mechanisms would be needed within weeks. The HLP is an important step towards safeguarding the ocean through science-based policy. It must not be allowed to falter.

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