The survey is carried out from early August to early October, and covers the whole Barents Sea. This survey encompasses various surveys that previously have been carried out jointly or at national basis. Joint investigations include the 0-group survey, the acoustic survey for pelagic fish (previously known as the capelin survey), and the investigations on young Greenland Halibut north and east of Svalbard. The predecessor of the survey dates back to 1972 and has been carried out every fall since.
From 2003 these surveys were called “ecosystem surveys”. Normally five vessels are applied, three Norwegian and two Russian. Most aspects of the ecosystem are covered, from physical and chemical oceanography, primary and secondary production, fish (both young and adult stages), sea mammals, benthos and birds. Methodology for each of these groups is described in more detail in chapter Monitoring of the ecosystem - Monitoring divided by ecosystem components. Many kinds of methods and gears are used, from water sampling, plankton nets, pelagic and demersal trawls, grabs and sledges, acoustics, visual observations (birds and sea mammals).