The Barents Sea is to a large extent a clean environment. Monitoring results indicate generally low levels of contaminants, with some exceptions. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that accumulate to high levels in organisms at the top of the food-chain are of special concern.
Data from Zeppelin Mountain in Ny-Ålesund has shown that the concentration of long-range transported substances like PCB and PAH has had a steady decrease since the beginning of the 90-ies, but increased concentrations in air were observed in 2007. These increasing concentration levels may be explained by increased evaporation of previously deposited HCB from the open ocean along the western coast of Spitsbergen (Svalbard, Norway) which has been ice-free during the past four years, including the winter seasons (2005-2008).
The levels of persistent organic pollutants in polar bears at Svalbard and Franz Josef Land are above the limits for effects on hormone and immune system. PCB has been found in especially high concentrations (AMAP 2004). The trend is increased levels of PCB from the western populations to the eastern populations, probably due to a larger long range transport of PCB substances from Europe to Svalbard and the Barents Sea area. Recent studies have also found newer contaminants like BFH and PFC in polar bears in the Svalbard region.
For most of the monitored substances in fish and shellfish in the Barents Sea the levels are well below the limits values for human consumption.
The issue of present and potential radioactive contamination in the Barents Sea has received considerable attention in recent years. At present time a general tendency to decrease is indicated for all the radionuclides.