Barents Sea

Barents Sea ecosystem (Copyright: Institute of Marine Research, Norway)The Barents Sea is Europe’s last large, clean, and intact marine ecosystem. It is home to the world’s largest cod and herring stocks (during their juvenile stage), numerous species of whales and seals, some of the largest bird colonies in Europe (including puffin and cormorant) and the world’s biggest cold-water coral reef. But is also a region with rapid industrial development. Increasing human activities such as oil and gas exploration, shipping and aquaculture add to the impacts from fisheries, climate change and increasing levels of toxic chemicals. They pose serious threats to the marine ecosystem and biodiversity.

In 2006 the Barents Sea Management Planwas launched. This plan aims at sustainable use of the ecosystem, within acceptable levels of pollution, with reduced risk of accidental spills, with sufficient capacity and readiness to deal with accidents, and seafood that is safe for consumption, while safeguarding biodiversity. The plan provides an overall framework for managing all human activities (oil and gas industry, fishing and shipping) in the area.

Aim of Case Study
We will use experiences from the development, implementation and revision of the Barents Sea Management Plan as valuable input to MESMA. These experiences can facilitate development of practical tools for sustainable development in European seas through use of spatial managed areas.

In the development of the Barents Sea Management Plan important gaps in knowledge were identified. The MAREANO program was developed to fill gaps related to seabed conditions, habitats and biodiversity through detailed mapping of depth, sediments, bottom fauna and pollutants in Norwegian waters.

The MAREANO mapping activity can provide MESMA with experience from the use of a broad set of methods needed for geo-referenced documentation of the seabed environment and natural resources, and communicating results to the public/stakeholders and politicians through a management organisation and the homepage of MAREANO.
The Barents Sea Management Plan was revised in 2011. This also involved an evaluation of process and implementation structure. MESMA can provide valuable input to the next revision of the Barents Sea Management Plan in 2015. At the same time the Barents Sea Management Plan can feed experiences to MESMA of what works and what does not and thus help to improve the MESMA framework.

The gorgonian coral Radicipes sp. (pig-tail coral) was not known from Norwegian waters before MAREANO found a population of it in the northern part of the MAREANO mapping area.

Norwegian waters comprise most of the living Lophelia-reefs in Europe.