Ecosystem overviews

Barents Sea Ecoregion description

The Barents Sea is one of the shelf seas surrounding the Polar basin. It connects with the deeper Norwegian Sea to the west, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Kara Sea to the east, and borders the Norwegian and Russian coasts to the south.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The 500m depth contour is used to delineate the continental slope to the west and the north. To the east, the Novaya Zemlya archipelago separates the Barents Sea and the Kara Sea. The Barents Sea covers an area of approximately 1.6 million km2, has an average depth of ca. 230m, and a maximum depth of about 500 m at the western end of Bear Island Trough. Its topography is characterized by troughs and basins, separated by shallow bank areas. The three largest banks are Central Bank, Great Bank, and Spitsbergen Bank. Several troughs over 300m deep run from the central Barents Sea to the northern (e.g. Franz Victoria Trough) and western (e.g. Bear Island Trough) continental shelf break. These western troughs allow influx of Atlantic waters to the central Barents Sea. Atlantic waters enter the Arctic Basin through the Barents Sea and the Fram Strait. Large-scale atmospheric pressure systems influence the volume flux, temperature, and salinity of Atlantic waters, in turn affecting oceanographic conditions both in the Barents Sea and in the Arctic Ocean.

The Barents Sea is divided into the Russian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the Norwegian EEZ (agreed since 2010). An EEZ around Svalbard was claimed by Norway in 1977 and is disputed by Russia.

The fisheries in the Barents Sea ecoregion are managed by coastal states, with some fisheries managed by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC). Responsibility for salmon management rests with the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) and for large pelagic fish with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Fisheries advice is provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

Environmental policy is managed by national agencies and OSPAR, with advice being provided by national agencies, OSPAR, and ICES. International shipping is managed under the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

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​The Barents Sea ecoregion with EEZ delineations. Click image to enlarge.
Catchment area for the Barents Sea ecoregion showing major cities, ports, and ICES areas. Click image to enlarge.
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Barents Sea Ecoregion description

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