Man's Impact on the Barents Sea
The Barents Sea ecosystem is a polar system with high biological production. Production takes place during a short season, mainly along the ice margin. As biological production is very limited in both space and time, the ecosystem is vulnerable to the influence of human activity. Fishing activity represents the most significant environmental load by man on the Barents Sea. In recent years offshore oil and gas exploration activity has increased, resulting in environmental problems as well as conflicts with fishing operations. Heavy metals and organic contaminants of man-made origin have been observed in both sediments and organisms at different trophic levels. Both long-range atmospheric transport and transport by ocean currents are important. Organic contaminants accumulate mainly in the body fat of the organisms; northern ecosystems are therefore especially vulnerable because fat has much greater ecological importance in such systems than in more southerly ecosystems. In recent years there has been public concern in both Norway and Russia over the possibility of radioactive pollution. Nuclear power plants, nuclear vessels and weapons are present in the area and produce radioactive wastes. Reports of wastes have influenced public opinion in many countries. The Barents Sea is strongly influenced by ocean climate variations. Global climate models forecast that the most elevated ocean temperatures due to possible greenhouse effects will probably occur in polar regions.
Key words: Barents Sea, fishing, offshore oil activity, organic contaminants, radioactivity