Barents Sea

The Barents Sea is shallow, with an average depth of 230 metres. It extends from the deep Norwegian Sea in the west, which reaches a depth of 2500 metres, to the coast of Novaya Zemlya in the east, and from the Norwegian and Russian coasts in the south to about 80º N.

The Barents sea

The Barents Sea is important for the Norwegian fishing industry because the supply of water from the Atlantic Ocean creates very good growing conditions.  Photo: Odd Harald Selboskar / Norwegian Polar Institute

A common eider swimming among ice floes in the Barents Sea

A common eider swimming among ice floes in the Barents Sea. At least 20 million seabirds live here in summer. Photo: Sebastian Gerland / Norwegian Polar Institute

Deep trenches are found in many places and they typically have a horizontal soft bottom due to the accumulation of sediment. Many banks and other extensive areas, on the other hand, have relatively little sedimentation owing to powerful currents. Northward-flowing ocean currents transport Atlantic water eastwards and northwards, and southward-flowing ocean currents transport Arctic water southwards. The supply of Atlantic water helps to make parts of the area stand out from other Arctic seas at a similar latitude, and it also means that these areas are comparatively easily accessible for most of the year.

The Barents Sea is one of the most productive oceanic areas in the world, and few other seas can boast a corresponding abundance of breeding seabirds. At least 20 million seabirds live here in summer. They belong to 40 different species and breed in 1600 colonies.

The Barents Sea is very important for the Norwegian fishing industry, since it is both a valuable growing-up area for several important species of fish and big catches are taken here. For the past 40 years, the Barents Sea has given a yield of between 1 and 3.5 million tonnes of fish.

The Norwegian Polar Institute focuses on the Barents Sea

Barentshavet er et viktig område for Norsk Polarinstitutts forskning

The Polar Institute research vessel, Lance, frequently undertakes cruises to the Barents Sea. The Norwegian Polar Institute carries out a great deal of research in the area, also on the sea ice. Photo: Sebastian Gerland / Norwegian Polar Institute

Norwegian Polar Institute scientists study Barents Sea ecosystems, birds and mammals, and the sea ice itself, and our environmental managers helped to draw up the Management Plan for the Barents Sea, which was published by the Norwegian Government on 31 March 2006. The Institute is now engaged in following-up the plan.

The BarentsPortal is a web site which supplies first-hand information on the environment in the Norwegian and Russian parts of the Barents Sea. The portal is a cooperative project between Norwegian and Russian management and research institutions, and the Norwegian Polar Institute is responsible for the Norwegian part of the project.