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Home* News and Stories → Environmental situation in the Barents Sea

Environmental situation in the Barents Sea

The new environmental status report of a Norwegian working group that includes a number of research institutions has been published in February. It summarizes scientic data concerning various environmental developments. The report (Norwegian) is detailed and has yielded expected development as well as surprises.

Some important results:

  • As was to be expected, the ice cover of the Barents Sea has decreased noticeably from 1979 to 2009. 2005, 2007 and 2008 were years with extremely little ice. The proportion of multi-year ice has decreased, especially in 2007.
  • During the same period, water temperatures have experienced an increase of around 1°C, mostly due to an increased influx of Atlantic water. This has pronounced, but complex effects on nutrient availability as well as population dynamics of different fish (and other) species.
  • Seabird colonies in Spitsbergen and Norway have developed in different ways, but the short message is an overall decline over different species and geographical areas. In Spitsbergen, Brünich’s Guillemots have gone down significantly in numbers, the highest documented loss being 36 % within the last 5 years at Fuglehuken on the island of Prins Karls Forland. Kittywakes have suffered losses of up to 43 % (Bear Island) during the same time span, whereas the Common Guillemot, a bird that is more adapted to sub-arctic conditions, has increased by 38 % on Bear Island. The situation is even more dramatic in north Norway, where almost all seabird species have suffered severe losses at most locations, in some cases of more than 99 %.
  • The volumes of plastic rubbish seem to have gone back slightly in recent years. Since 1998, it is not allowed anymore to dispose any plastics into the sea.
  • Concentrations of long-lived environmental toxins such as BCPs and PAKs have decreased until about 2004, but have increased slightly again and are stable since then.
  • Radioactivity is still low. Main sources are nuclear weapon testing during the 1950s and 1960s, Chernobyl and the nuclear reprocessing plants of Sellafield (England) and La Hague (France). The Sovjet nuclear submarine K-278 Komsomolets, that sank 180 kilometres southeast of Bear Island in 1989 and is still lying at 1858 metres depth, has not emitted significant amounts of radioisotopes – so far.
  • Die Konzentrationen langlebiger Schadstoffe wie PCBs (Polychlorierte Bifenyle) und PAKs (Polyzyklische aromatische Kohlenwasserstoffe) gingen bis etwa 2004 zurück, stiegen seitdem aber wieder leicht an und sind seitdem näherungsweise stabil.

Plastic rubbish, mostly »lost« from fishing vessels.
Washed up onto and collected from a small part of a remote beach in Hinlopen Strait, northeastern Spitsbergen.

Environmental situation in the Barents Sea - Lundehuken

Source: Forvaltningsplan Barentshavet 2010

last modification: 2014-07-01 · copyright: Rolf Stange