Sea (Norwegian: Barentshavet; Russian: Баренцево
море, Barentsevo More) is a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean,
located off the northern coasts of
Russia divided between
Norwegian and Russian territorial waters. Known among Russians in
Middle Ages as the Murman
Sea ("Norwegian Sea"), the sea takes its
current name from the Dutch navigator Willem Barentsz.
It is a rather shallow shelf sea, with an average depth of 230 metres
(750 ft), and is an important site for both fishing and
hydrocarbon exploration. The Barents
Sea is bordered by the Kola
Peninsula to the south, the shelf edge towards the Norwegian
the west, and the archipelagos of
Svalbard to the northwest, Franz
Josef Land to the northeast and
Novaya Zemlya to the east. The islands
of Novaya Zemlya, an extension of the northern end of the Ural
Mountains, separate the Barents
Sea from the Kara Sea.
4.2 Modern era
5.1 Political status
5.2 Oil and gas
Sea biodiversity and marine bioprospecting
5.4.1 Institutions and industry supporting marine bioprospecting in
6 See also
9 External links
Shores of the Barents (Murman) Sea. From "Tabula Russiae", Joan
Blaeu's, Amsterdam, 1614.
The southern half of the Barents Sea, including the ports of Murmansk
(Russia) and Vardø (Norway) remain ice-free year round due to the
warm North Atlantic drift. In September, the entire Barents
more or less completely ice-free. Until the
Winter War (1939–40),
Finland's territory also reached to the Barents Sea, with the harbor
at Petsamo being Finland's only ice-free winter harbor.
There are three main types of water masses in the Barents Sea: Warm,
salty Atlantic water (temperature >3 °C, salinity >35)
from the North Atlantic drift, cold Arctic water (temperature
<0 °C, salinity <35) from the north, and warm, but not
very salty coastal water (temperature >3 °C, salinity
<34.7). Between the Atlantic and Polar waters, a front called the
Polar Front is formed. In the western parts of the sea (close to Bear
Island), this front is determined by the bottom topography and is
therefore relatively sharp and stable from year to year, while in the
east (towards Novaya Zemlya), it can be quite diffuse and its position
can vary a lot between years.
The lands of
Novaya Zemlya attained most of their early Holocene
coastal deglaciation approximately 10,000 years before present.
International Hydrographic Organization
International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the
"Barentsz Sea" [sic] as follows:
On the west: The northeastern limit of the Norwegian
Sea [A line
joining the southernmost point of West Spitzbergen [sic] to North
Cape of Bear Island, through this island to Cape Bull and thence on to
North Cape in
On the northwest: The eastern shore of West Spitzbergen [sic],
Hinlopen Strait up to 80° latitude north; south and east coasts of
North-East Land [island of Nordaustlandet] to Cape Leigh Smith
(80°05′N 28°00′E / 80.083°N 28.000°E / 80.083;
On the north: Cape Leigh Smith across the Islands Bolshoy Ostrov
(Great Island) [Storøya], Gilles [Kvitøya] and Victoria; Cape Mary
Harmsworth (southwestern extremity of Alexandra Land) along the
northern coasts of Franz-Josef Land as far as Cape Kohlsaat
(81°14′N 65°10′E / 81.233°N 65.167°E / 81.233;
On the east:
Cape Kohlsaat to
Cape Zhelaniya (Desire); west and
southwest coast of
Novaya Zemlya to Cape Kussov Noss and thence to
western entrance Cape, Dolgaya Bay (70°15′N 58°25′E /
70.250°N 58.417°E / 70.250; 58.417) on Vaigach Island. Through
Vaigach Island to Cape Greben; thence to Cape Belyi Noss on the
On the south: The northern limit of the White
Sea [A line joining
Svyatoi Nos (
Murmansk Coast, 39°47'E) and Cape Kanin].
Other islands in the Barents
Sea include Chaichy and Timanets.
See also: White
Sea Rift System
Sea was originally formed from two major continental
collisions: the Caledonian orogeny, in which the
Baltica and Laurentia
collided to form Laurasia, and a subsequent collision between Laurasia
and Western Siberia. Most of its geological history is dominated by
extensional tectonics, caused by the collapse of the Caledonian and
Uralian orogenic belts and the break-up of Pangaea. These events
created the major rift basins that dominate the Barents Shelf, along
with various platforms and structural highs. The later geological
history of the Barents
Sea is dominated by Late Cenozoic uplift,
particularly that caused by Quaternary glaciation, which has resulted
in erosion and deposition of significant sediment.
Phytoplankton bloom in the Barents Sea. The milky-blue colour that
dominates the bloom suggests that it contains large numbers of
Due to the North Atlantic drift, the Barents
Sea has a high biological
production compared to other oceans of similar latitude. The spring
bloom of phytoplankton can start quite early close to the ice edge,
because the fresh water from the melting ice makes up a stable water
layer on top of the sea water. The phytoplankton bloom feeds
zooplankton such as Calanus finmarchicus, Calanus glacialis, Calanus
hyperboreus, Oithona spp., and krill. The zooplankton feeders include
young cod, capelin, polar cod, whales, and little auk. The capelin is
a key food for top predators such as the north-east Arctic cod, harp
seals, and seabirds such as common guillemot and Brunnich's guillemot.
The fisheries of the Barents Sea, in particular the cod fisheries, are
of great importance for both
Norway and Russia.
SIZEX-89 was an international winter experiment where the main
objectives were to perform sensor signature studies of different ice
types in order to develop SAR algorithms for ice variables such as ice
types, ice concentrations and ice kinematics. Although previous
research suggested that predation by whales may be the cause of
depleting fish stocks, more recent research suggests that marine
mammal consumption has only a trivial influence on fisheries and a
model examining the impact of fisheries and climate was far more
accurate at describing trends in fish abundance. There is a
genetically distinct polar bear population associated with the Barents
Dutch whalers near Svalbard, 1690
Sea was formerly known to Russians as Murmanskoye Morye,
or the "
Sea of Murmans" (i.e., Norwegians), and it appears with this
name in sixteenth-century maps, including Gerard Mercator's Map of the
Arctic published in his 1595 atlas. Its eastern corner, in the region
of the Pechora River's estuary, has been known as Pechorskoye Morye,
that is, Pechora Sea.
This sea was given its present name in honor of Willem Barentsz, a
Dutch navigator and explorer. Barentsz was the leader of early
expeditions to the far north, at the end of the sixteenth century.
Sea is called by sailors "The Devil's Dance Floor" due to its
unpredictability and difficulty level.
Sea is called by ocean rowers "Devil's Jaw". After first
recorded complete crossing of Barents
Tromsø to Longyearbyen
in a row boat in 2017 by Polar Row expedition, captain
Fiann Paul was
asked by Norwegian TV2 how a rower would name the Barents Sea. Fiann
responded that he would name it “Devil's Jaw”, adding that the
winds that you constantly battle are the breath from the devil's
nostrils while he holds you in his jaws.
The harbour of the
Seabed mapping was completed in 1933 with the first full map produced
by Russian marine geologist Maria Klenova.
Sea was also the site of a notable World War II
engagement, a German surface merchant raiding attack on a British
convoy that later became known as the Battle of the Barents Sea. Under
the command of Oskar Kummetz, the German warships sank minelayer HMS
Bramble and destroyer HMS Achates, but in turn lost destroyer Z16
Friedrich Eckoldt and Admiral Hipper was severely damaged by British
gunfire. The Germans later retreated and the British convoy arrived
Murmansk shortly afterwards.
During the Cold War, the
Soviet Red Banner Northern Fleet
Soviet Red Banner Northern Fleet used the
southern reaches of the sea as a ballistic missile submarine bastion,
a strategy that
Russia continues. Nuclear contamination from dumped
Russian naval reactors is an environmental concern in the Barents Sea.
Further information: Norway–
Signing of the Russian-Norwegian Treaty, 15 September 2010
For decades there was a boundary dispute between
Norway and Russia
regarding the position of the boundary between their respective claims
to the Barents Sea. The Norwegians favoured a median line, based on
the Geneva Convention of 1958, whereas the Russians favoured a
meridian based sector line, based on a Soviet decision of 1926.
This led to a neutral "grey" zone between the competing claims that
had an area of 175,000 sq.km, which is approximately 12% of the total
area of the Barents Sea. The two countries started negotiations on the
location of the boundary in 1974 and a moratorium on hydrocarbon
exploration was declared in 1976.
Russia signed an agreement that placed the
boundary equidistant from their competing claims. This was ratified
and went into force on 7 July 2011, opening the grey zone for
Oil and gas
Further information: List of oil and gas fields of the Barents Sea
Encouraged by the success of the North
Sea in the 1960s, hydrocarbon
exploration in the Barents
Sea got underway in 1969. The Norwegian
authorities acquired seismic reflection surveys through the following
years, which were analysed to understand the location of the main
sedimentary basins. NorskHydro drilled the first well in 1980,
which was a dry hole, and the first discoveries were made the
following year – the Alke and Askeladden gas fields. Several more
discoveries were made on the Norwegian side of the Barents Sea
throughout the 1980s, including the important
However interest in the area began to wane due to a succession of dry
holes, the wells only containing gas (which was cheap at the time) and
the prohibitive costs of developing wells in such a remote area.
Interest in the area was reignited in the late 2000s, after the
Snovhit field was finally bought into production and two new large
discoveries were made.
Exploration on the Russian side got underway around the same time as
that on Norwegian side, encouraged by the success in the Timan-Pechora
Basin. The first wells were drilled in the early 1980s and some
very large gas fields were discovered throughout this decade. The
Shtokman field was discovered in 1988 and is classed as a giant gas
field—currently the 5th largest gas field in the world. However, due
to the same reasons that interest declined in the Norwegian side of
the Barents Sea, in addition to the political instability of the
1990s, interest in the Russian side of the Barents
Honningsvåg is the most northerly fishing village in Norway
Sea contains the world largest remaining cod
population, as well as an important stocks of haddock and capelin.
Fishing is managed jointly by
Norway in the form of the
Joint Norwegian–Russian Fisheries Commission, established in 1976,
in an attempt to keep track of how many fish are leaving the ecosystem
due to fishing. The Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission
sets Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for multiple species throughout
their migratory tracks. Through the Commission,
exchange fishing quotas and catch statistics to ensure the TACs are
not being violated. However, there are problems with the system and
the effects of fishing on the Barents
Sea ecosystem are not completely
accurate. Cod is one of the major catches. A large portion of catches
are not reported when the fishing boats land to account for profits
that are being lost to high taxes and fees. Since many fishermen do
not strictly follow the TACs and rules set forth by the Commission,
the amount of fish being extracted annually from the Barents
Sea biodiversity and marine bioprospecting
The Barents Sea, where temperate waters from the Gulf Stream and cold
waters from the Arctic meet, is home to an enormous diversity of
organisms, which are well adapted to the extreme conditions of their
marine habitats. This makes these arctic species very attractive for
marine bioprospecting. Marine bioprospecting may be defined as the
search for bioactive molecules and compounds from marine sources
having new, unique properties and the potential for commercial
applications. Amongst others, applications include medicines, food and
feed, textiles, cosmetics and the process industry.
The Norwegian government strategically supports the development of
marine bioprospecting as it has the potential to contribute to new and
sustainable wealth creation.
Tromsø and the northern areas of Norway
play a central role in this strategy due to excellent access to unique
Arctic marine organisms and the presence of marine industries and
R&D competence and infrastructure in this region. Since 2007,
science and industry have cooperated closely on bioprospecting and the
development and commercialization of new products.
Institutions and industry supporting marine bioprospecting in Barents
MabCent-SFI is one of fourteen Research-Based Innovation Centers
initiated by the Research Council of Norway, and is the only one
within the field of “bioactive compounds and drug discovery” that
is based on bioactives from marine organisms. MabCent-SFI maintains a
focus on bioactives from Arctic and sub-Arctic organisms. By the end
of 2011, MabCent has tested about 200,000 extracts, finding several
hundred "hits". Through further research and development, some of
these hits will become valuable "leads", i.e. characterized compounds
known to possess biological effects of interest. The commercial
partners in MabCent-SFI are Biotec Pharmacon ASA and its subsidiary
ArcticZymes AS, ABC BioScience AS, Lytix Biopharma AS and Pronova
BioPharma ASA. ArcticZymes is also a partner in MARZymes, a project
financed by the Research Council of
Norway to find marine enzymes
which are adapted to the extreme conditions in the Arctic. The science
partners in MabCent-SFI are Marbank, a national marine biobank located
in Tromsø, Marbio, a medium/high-throughput platform for screening
and identification of bioactive compounds and Norstruct, a protein
structure determination platform. Mabcent-SFI is hosted by the
University of Tromsø.
BioTech North is an emerging biotechnology cluster of enterprises and
R&D organizations, which cooperate closely with regional funding
and development actors (triple helix). As bioactive molecules and
compounds from Arctic marine resources form the basis of activities
for the majority of the cluster members, BioTech North serves as a
marine biotech cluster. The majority of BioTech North’s enterprises
are active within life science applications and markets. To date the
cluster contains around thirty organizations from both the private and
public sector. It has received Arena status and is funded through the
[ Arena] programme financed by Innovation Norway, SIVA and The
Research Council of Norway. Stakeholders of BioTech North include
Barents BioCentre Lab, BioStruct, Marbank, Norut, Nofima, Mabcent-SFI,
University of Tromsø, Unilab,
Barentzymes AS, Trofi, Scandiderma AS,
Prophylix Pharma AS, Olivita, Marealis, ProCelo, Probio, Lytix
Biopharma, Integorgen, d'Liver, Genøk, Cognis, Clare AS, Chitinor,
Calanus AS, Biotec Betaglucans, Ayanda, ArcticZymes AS, ABC
Continental shelf of Russia
Energy in Norway
List of largest biotechnology & pharmaceutical companies
List of oil and gas fields of the Barents Sea
List of seas
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