Human activities - Articles

With retreating sea ice, new areas in the northern Barents Sea become available for fisheries, including bottom trawlers. Of special interest to WGIBAR is therefore the vulnerability analysis (Jørgensen et al., 2015). Current knowledge of the response of benthic communities to the impact of trawling is still rudimentary. The benthos data from the ecosystem survey in 2011 has been used to assess the vulnerability of benthic species to trawling, based on the risk of being caught or damaged by a bottom trawl (WGIBAR report 2016).

In order to conclude on the total impact of trawling, an extensive mapping of fishing effort and bottom habitat would be necessary. In general, the response of benthic organisms to disturbance differs with substratum, depth, gear, and type of organism. Seabed characteristics from the Barents Sea are only scarcely known and the lack of high-resolution (100 m) maps of benthic habitats and biota is currently the most serious impediment to effective protection of vulnerable habitats from fishing activities.

The impact of fisheries on the ecosystem is summarized in the chapter on Ecosystem considerations in the AFWG report (ICES 2016c), and some of the points are:

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

Oil and gas activities 2013

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 2013

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 2013

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:

Pollution 2013

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 2013

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 2013

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 2013

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 2013

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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