Human activities - Articles

Blood sampling in seabirds. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

Pollution

Atmospheric transport is believed to be the most important transport route for volatile and semi-volatile POPs (persistent organic pollutants) into the Arctic (AMAP 2004). Monitoring POPs in the air at Zeppelin observatory (close to Ny Ålesund, Svalbard) has revealed low concentrations with stabile or declining trends. One exception is HCB (hexachlorobenzene) that has increased significantly since 2003 (Nizzetto, 2014).

Transport of crude oil and other petroleum products from ports and terminals in Northwest Russia through the Barents Sea has been increasing over the last decade. In 2002, about 5 million tons of Russian oil was exported along the North-Norwegian coastline, in 2004, the volume reached almost 12 million tons, but dropped the following year; during 2005 to 2013, levels of export ranged between 9 and 12 million tons per year. In a five-ten year perspective, the total

Vessel collisions or ship strikes may result in death or serious injury of marine mammals, i.e., massive trauma, hemorrhaging, broken bones, and propeller wounds. Collisions occur mainly with large whale species, small cetaceans (i.e., dolphins, narwhal, beluga), marine turtles, and sirenians (i.e., manatees, dugongs (Arctic Council, 2009).

Age at first reproduction has declined markedly for Barents Sea cod over recent decades. In the 1940s, a cod typically reproduced for the first time when it was between 9 or 10 years old. In the 1990s, average age at first reproduction had declined to between 6 and 7 years. Reduced age at maturity may affect the reproductive capacity of the cod stock, and the cod’s role as an important top predator in the ecosystem. The possible explanation for the declining age at

The resilience of the Barents Sea ecosystem, even unexploited, may be low due to great climatic changes (Loeng and Drinkwater, 2007), variability in primary production and biomass/production of organisms at different trophic levels.  Heavily exploited populations of top predators influence many lower trophic levels of the ecosystem. Overfishing of small pelagic fish, i.e. capelin, results in imbalance of energy flow passing to the higher trophic levels; this may have the similar strong consequences for the ecosystem as overfishing of top predators (Yaragina and Dolgov, 2009).

The stock of snow crabs in the Barents Sea has potential to support a fishery comparable in value to the famous cod fishery. Since the first Snow crabs were discovered in the Eastern Barents Sea in the mid 1990s

Drilling platform Deepsea Delta in the Barents Sea. Photo: Gazprom

Oil and gas activities

The environmental risks of oil and gas development in the region have been evaluated several times, and is a key environmental question facing the region. The focus of the debate is the risk of an accidental oil-spill during exploration or production. The consequences of such a spill depend on the activity, the location, time and potential exposure of environmental valuable species and areas. One of the environmental risks from future oil production can be associated with potential activities, which might influence near-shore areas, especially in ecologically valuable areas like the Lofoten-Islands and Pechora Sea. In addition, the Polar Oceanographic Front and the Ice Edge zone are particular sensitive areas.

Blood sampling in seabirds. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

Pollution

Atmospheric transport is believed to be the most important transport route for volatile and semi-volatile POPs (persistent organic pollutants) into the Arctic (AMAP 2004). Monitoring POPs in the air at Zeppelin observatory (close to Ny Ålesund, Svalbard) has revealed low concentrations with stabile or declining trends. One exception is HCB (hexachlorobenzene) that has increased significantly since 2003 (Nizzetto, 2014).

Analysis of radionuclides in haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) liver. Photo: NRPA

Pollution

The issue of present and potential radioactive contamination in the marine environment has received considerable attention in Norway. The Norwegian marine monitoring programme (RAME) focuses on monitoring of radioactivity both in coastal areas and in the open sea. This programme also includes monitoring of discharges from Norwegian sources and collection of discharge data relevant for the long-range transport of radionuclides from various sources (NRPA, 2011).

Drilling equipment. Photo: subseaworldnews.com

Pollution

Oil contamination might be measured as the total hydrocarbon content (THC) which includes both aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs play a significant role in the Barents Sea where hydrocarbon resources are naturally present. PAHs also originate from incomplete combustion processes of organic material, they travel long distances in the atmosphere, and are toxic to animals and humans. Hence, PAH-emission is still ongoing. Atmospheric transport has been demonstrated to be the main route for PAHs to reach pristine areas such as the Arctic.

Transport of crude oil and other petroleum products from ports and terminals in Northwest Russia through the Barents Sea has been increasing over the last decade. In 2002, about 5 million tons of Russian oil was exported along the North-Norwegian coastline, in 2004, the volume reached almost 12 million tons, but dropped the following year; during 2005 to 2013, levels of export ranged between 9 and 12 million tons per year. In a five-ten year perspective, the total

Vessel collisions or ship strikes may result in death or serious injury of marine mammals, i.e., massive trauma, hemorrhaging, broken bones, and propeller wounds. Collisions occur mainly with large whale species, small cetaceans (i.e., dolphins, narwhal, beluga), marine turtles, and sirenians (i.e., manatees, dugongs (Arctic Council, 2009).

Future shipping activities depend considerably on the expansion rate of the oil-and-gas related industry in the northern areas, which in turn depends on both regional and global economic developments. Global warming and a subsequent increase of ice-free shipping routes through Arctic waters could also significantly contribute to increase of shipping traffic.

Transport of farmed salmon (Photo: Bjørn Tore Forberg/Nofima)

Aquaculture

Aquaculture is a growing industry along the coasts of northern Norway and Russia; there are several commercial fish farms producing salmonids (salmon, and trout), white fish (mainly cod), and shellfish. Aquaculture is dominated by salmon and trout. Norwegian farmed Atlantic salmon accounts for over half of the world’s salmon supply. While landed catch has in general shown a declining trend, aquaculture production has increased steadily (FAO, 2013).

Tourists in Svalbard (Photo: NPI)

Tourism

Tourism is one of three focus areas for business in Svalbard, and has been so since the last White Paper Number 50 (1990-91) Næringstiltak på Svalbard (Measures for Economic development of Svalbard) was presented. Cruise tourism is a major part with high numbers of operators, vessels, and ships; the cruise tourism industry in Svalbard has increased considerably over the last 10-15 years transporting a large number of passengers. There are two types of vessels:

Tourists in Svalbard (Photo: NPI)

Tourism

The Barents Sea ecosystem is driven by climate conditions and is highly susceptible to the effects of climate change; it is inherently a highly dynamic system. Human forces now present in the system and are already affecting environmental conditions. Within this unstable setting, a rapidly growing tourist industry is also producing change and exerting impacts. It is important to anticipate ways in which tourism will affect the environmental quality, cultural integrity, economic

Tourism, Pyramiden, Svalbard (Photo: NPI)

Tourism

In December 2013, the Murmansk regional government decreed that the role of tourism in economic and socio-cultural development of the region should be increased. Cruise tourism is recognized as a key area for further development. To develop the infrastructure to ensure regular marine passenger transport, the “Arctic Harbor” investment project will be implemented. Within the project’s framework, a range of improvements are planned, including: reconstruction of

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