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Bottom sampling (Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute)


This biotope map, covering the entire Barents Sea, has been compiled in collaboration between the Geological Survey of Norway, the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR) and the Russian Polar Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography (PINRO) in the frame of the Norwegian-Russian Environmental Commission Workplan for 2011-2013 and 2013-2015.

Genetic similar groups of Atlantic salmon. Source: CGF)


Scientists, managers and commercial fishermen from Northern Norway, Finland and north-west Russia, White Sea area combined their efforts in the Kolarctic salmon project (2011-2013), with the aim of providing a better knowledge-base for the countries salmon management. Within this joint and unique effort bio-specimen were sampled along the North-Norwegian coast and in Russian Barents and White Seas generating the most comprehensive ecological and genetic datasets for Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar).

Beaked redfish (Sebastes mentella)


During the last warming period (1998-2011) distinct trends in abundance of fish species from different zoogeographic groups were observed. Abundance of cold-water fish species (arctic, mainly arctic and arcto-boreal groups) decreased from 2000-2001 to 2010. But since 2011, slight increases in abundance of these groups have been observed.

All known seabird colonies in the Barents Sea and White Sea have been registered in a joint Norwegian-Russian database. The database was produced by seven Russian institutions and the Norwegian Polar Institute and covers all known seabird colonies in the Barents Sea region.

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)


Polar bears, seven pinniped species and five cetacean species reside full-time in the Barents Sea region. Eight additional whale species are regular seasonal migrants that come into the Barents Sea to take advantage of the seasonal, summer-time peak in productivity as the ice retreats northward.

Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus)


Walruses in the Barents Sea region belong to the Atlantic subspecies Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus. Throughout their range this subspecies has been reduced in abundance via human hunting. Walruses are on the Norwegian Red list and are also listed in the Red Data Book of Russia.

Arsenic is a highly poisonous metalloid with many allotropic forms, including a yellow (molecular non-metallic) and several black and grey forms (metalloids).

Mercury is the single most toxic element for seabirds. Mercury, along with Cadmium and lead, is one of the heavy metals that are of environmental concern as it can be toxic at levels only moderately elevated above natural ambient levels.

PBDEs are accumulating in the environment, including humans, and have shown an exponential increase over the past few decades.

The persistence and bioaccumulative characteristics of PBDEs and their similarities to known toxic PCBs, raises concern over potential human health effects, especially during early development.
PBDEs increased in the period from 1983 to 1993 and then leveled out from 1993 to 2003.

DDT was developed as the first of the modern synthetic insecticides in the 1940s. It was initially used with great effect to combat malaria, typhus, and other insect-borne human diseases among military and civilian populations.

It was also used for insect control in crop and livestock production, institutions, homes, and gardens. Today, DDT is classified as a probable human carcinogen. There have been restrictions on the use of DDT since 1972. However, DDT has a limited use in mosquitoes control and prevention of malaria.

There has been a significant reduction of HCH concentrations in seabird eggs in the period from 1983 to 2003.

Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) refer to a class of organofluorine compounds that have all hydrogens replaced with fluorine on a carbon chain—but also contain at least one different atom or functional group.

Black-legged kittiwak (Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute)

Pollution: Contaminants in seabirds

Environmental pollutants from industrialised parts of the world reach the Arctic via air, ocean currents, rivers and sea ice. A wide range of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and heavy metals have been detected in Arctic wildlife. The levels of the most toxic trace elements (mercury and cadmium) measured in muscle and liver tissue of seabirds from the Barents Sea exceed background levels, but are low compared to those in similar seabird species from

Cadmium has a high toxicity and is carcinogenic. Cadmium, along with mercury and lead, is one of the heavy metals that are of environmental concern as it can be toxic at levels only moderately elevated above natural ambient levels.

Chromium is an important metal in industry, for example as additive in iron for stainless steel production.

Copper is an essential element that is metabolically regulated in the tissue of seabirds.

The kidneys of adult animals excrete excess Manganese efficiently. Therefore Manganese is not seen as a problem in Arctic marine ecosystems.

Selenium is an essential micronutrient for animals. Concentrations of approximately 30 mg/kg dry weight are considered as background levels.

Zinc is an essential trace element. It is an especially important element in enzymes and plays a critical role in normal functioning of the brain and central nervous system.

Lindane and the other HCH isomers are members of the organochlorine family of chemicals. For decades, lindane, the gamma isomer, has been widely used as an insecticide.

The PCB makes up the majority of persistent organic pollutants in seabird eggs.

Animal studies show that long time exposure to hexachlorobenzene can harm the liver, immune system, kidneys, and blood and it can produce eruptions and pigmentations of the skin.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a class of organic compounds with 1 to 10 chlorine atoms attached to biphenyl. Theoretically there are 209 different congeners of PCB, of which 130 different are found in environmentally samples.

Chlordane was used as a pesticide in the United States from 1948 to 1988. Chlordane is considered to have high acute toxicity based on short-term animal tests in rats.

 Overall there has been a significant reduction of hexachlorobenzene concentrations in seabird eggs during the time period from 1983 to 2003.

Radionuclides, Cs-137 in bladderwrack. Source: NRPA

Radioactive contamination

In Northwest Russia there is a high concentration of potential sources of radioactive contamination to the environment. This includes both military and civil nuclear fleets, storage of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel, legacy sites with dumped radioactive material, utilization of nuclear-powered submarines and nuclear power plants. Radionuclides originating from the global fallout caused by the atmospheric nuclear weapons tests run from 1945 to –1995 may still be detected in the area.

Bottom sediments (Photo: Mareano)


The surface sediments, i.e. the predominant sediment type of the upper ~ 50 cm of the seabed, form the uppermost part of a sediment sequence covering the rocks of the Barents Sea. This sediment sequence varying in thickness from a few to several hundred meters and was mainly deposited during the Quaternary (the last 2.6 million years), a time period where glaciations took place repeatedly.

Sea ice in the Barents Sea. Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute


The Historical Ice Chart Archive is hosted by Norwegian Polar Institute. In a deep dive into the huge amount of data, ACSYS published i 2002 historical sea-ice observations in the Arctic region between 30ºW and 70ºE in the form of digitized maps, stored as shape files. The earliest chart dates from 1553, and the most recent from December 2002. More recent charts are available electronically from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute ( Vessels sailing to the

Protcted areas in the Barents Sea area

Environmental management

The protected areas in Northwest Russia are divided into different categories of protection and management. In strict nature reserves (zapovednik) no economic activities are permitted. National parks are designated to nature conservation, research, educational and cultural purposes as well as controlled recreational activities. In national parks there are restrictions to the management of natural resources. Nature parks (prirodnyi park) are the equivalent of the Norwegian