TITOV O.V., LEPESEVICH YU. M., PEDCHENKO A.P., PLOTITSYNA N.F. Polar Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography, Russia

PINRO is the oldest fisheries institute in Russia which has a large experience of fisheries research in the Barents Sea. Conservation and growth of fish stocks as well as monitoring of the marine environment are major objectives of the Polar Institute.

Conservation of biodiversity in the Barents Sea and rational harvesting of its resources is the joint concern of Russia and Norway which created an effective cooperation framework. Decisions on the TACs and national quotas of commercial stocks are taken at the Joint Russian-Norwegian Fisheries Commission following the ICES scientific advice. Management of resources inhabiting only the REZ is effected by Russian government on the basis of scientific advice provided by PINRO and VNIRO.

The main components of the Barents Sea ecosystem are investigated and assessed using the fisheries monitoring system, a reliable system of observations conducted on a regular basis.

The system is based on materials from field investigations of marine stocks, oceanographic observations, benthos surveys, and monitoring of water and ground pollution conducted annually onboard research and commercial vessels of the institute, as well as on the results of multispectral airborne observations of marine areas.

Fisheries monitoring is carried out in large marine areas in close cooperation with scientists from other Russian and foreign institutions. The history of cooperation between PINRO and the Bergen Institute of Marine Research (BIMI) counts about fifty years and a large experience of joint resource surveys has been gained.

The principal objective of resource surveys is the assessment of commercial fish and invertebrate stocks of the Barents Sea. Long-term data series make it possible to estimate and forecast catches of fish and invertebrate stocks using fisheries management approaches bilaterally agreed upon by Russia and Norway in order to conserve valuable fish stocks.

At-sea oceanographic observations of the Barents Sea are usually conducted in the areas of commercial stock surveys on a seasonal basis. The greatest area is covered by the annual joint Russian-Norwegian ecosystem survey in August-September. An important contribution to the information used for monitoring is hydrometeorological data provided by the Murmansk Department for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (MUGMS), which has long been cooperating with PINRO, and prognostic projects of the Russian State Hydrometeorological Institute (RGGMU). Hydrometeorological estimates are being corrected using Russian and foreign Internet sources. Results of remote observations are applied to monitor air circulation, air and sea surface temperatures, and ice coverage of the Barents Sea.

Historical and modern oceanographic data collected during Russian and international surveys of fish stocks are used to estimate water temperatures in the study area, to analyse seasonal and interannual variations in temperature, salinity and hydrochemical parameters, as well as to calculate water transport by the main Barents Sea currents on the basis of hydrodynamic modelling.

Fisheries monitoring of the Barents Sea provides the foundation for PINRO scientific advice, research and development projects. Monitoring results are also included in reference materials compiled for fishing companies. Data are categorised into regularly updated databases which are used for hydrometeorological and fisheries forecasting.

Investigations on the oil and gas fields and oil extraction on the Barents Sea shelf affect the traditional fishing areas. This destroys habitats causing reduction in stock abundance and in the quality and use value of products made from commercial species. The adverse effects of anthropogenic marine pollution can be prevented or minimised due to an appropriately increased coverage of the Arctic shelf by environmental monitoring. Environmental monitoring can be based on the fisheries monitoring system used in PINRO/BIMI. Widening of the system functions and inclusion of data from monitoring of oil spills and discharge, as well as data on oil waste dumping in the near-bottom layer in the areas inhabited by commercial stocks are being actively discussed now.

Some elements of environmental monitoring are conducted by PINRO within the framework of the program "Scientific support of fisheries development in Russia" (national program under the auspices of the Federal Fisheries Agency). PINRO scientists investigate the pollution of commercial stocks in the Barents Sea and their habitats. Monitoring of water, bottom sediment and biota pollution is carried out in the areas where the Atlantic waters flow into the Barents Sea, along fish migration routes, on the fishing grounds and in the potential oil and gas bearing areas.

Research goals include the collection of systematised data on the present status and trends describing the pollution of the main elements in the Barents Sea ecosystem and potential accumulation of contaminants, including the pollution related to enhanced oil extraction activities and transportation of petroleum products.

Investigations carried out in the beginning of the 21st century indicate low level of the Barents Sea pollution. Concentrations of pollutants in marine species were found to be insignificant now. They do not exceed the levels set up by sanitary norms and regulations.

To evaluate vulnerability of fisheries waters to anthropogenic pollution, PINRO performed electronic mapping of the Barents and the White Seas using GIS (Geographical Information Systems) technologies. Maps comprising the electronic atlas show the main parameters of marine ecosystems (oceanography, biological resources, fisheries, pollution). Updated data on pollution, as well as long term means used for estimating the adverse effects of anthropogenic activities on the biological resources, make it possible to promptly analyze information about the state of resources and their environment, to compile integrated maps of marine area vulnerability and to evaluate anthropogenic pollution.

PINRO has been developing and introducing advanced methods of resource assessment and new technical appliances for underwater investigations. A notable advance has been made due to underwater TV. The research complex based on the "Ocean Rover" underwater unit is used to assess the scallop stock.

Airborne investigations of marine areas make an important contribution to the integrated approach to investigations of the Arctic ecosystem. Besides the multispectral survey of the sea surface, the distribution of pelagic fish, birds and marine mammals is visually estimated along the investigation routes. These observations can be supplied by the estimation of marine pollution by petroleum products.

Presently applied in the monitoring of marine ecosystems are biological effects methods or biomarkers. These methods are used to reveal the effects of toxic compounds on the ecosystems and to identify the complex mechanisms underlying the influence of contaminants on living organisms on the molecular/cellular/individual level. Biomarkers can provide data on the _ effects of xenobiotics on the living organisms rather than on their concentrations in the environmental matrices as analytical methods do. Thus, the biological effects methods are applied to find out if environmental pollution affects marine species and to estimate the extent of such impact. This method of evaluating anthropogenic influence on the Barents Sea ecosystem combined with other fisheries monitoring methods can make the basis of the new environment control system for this area of the Arctic.

Active development of economic relations between PINRO and a number of Russian geological exploration, oil/gas and transport companies providing their assistance in the engineering/ecological, fisheries/environmental and other investigations facilitates the development of new lines of environmental monitoring on the Arctic shelf.



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