Despite existing regulations and controls, the Arctic region's Barents Sea is being over-fished and endangered by massive nuclear waste storage, while expanded oil and gas operations could further pollute the area, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said today.
A UNEP report released in Stavanger, Norway, notes the absence of long-term planning to tackle the over-fishing of cod and haddock, as well as the problems arising from the intentional introduction of the Red King Crab, which may lead to a reduction of non-commercial species.
Other threats to the unique Barents Sea Arctic ecosystem include a projected six-fold increase in oil and gas transportation, possibly raising oil transport from the Arctic Shelf to 40 million tons a year. "The increased exploration activities for petroleum resources in the Barents Sea, the offshore developments and the shipping of oil and gas along the coasts represent significant potential threats to this vulnerable Arctic ecosystem," UNEP chief Klaus Toepfer said.
Further compounding these problems are the presence of the world's largest radioactive waste storage system in the Murmansk region, and the unintentional introduction of alien biological species by oil tankers.
The report recommends that new regulations for different sectors should be devised, adopted and enforced and that the affected countries should adhere rigorously to international environmental agreements.
The expert team producing the report was established by UNEP's Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA) and chaired by the Russian Academy of Science and the Murmansk Marine Biological Institute.
It was supported by Akvaplan-Niva environmental and aquaculture consultants and the Norwegian College of Fisheries Science in Tromsø and was funded by the Global Environment Facility and the Norwegian Government.