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Location of the Barents Sea.
Barents Sea ( , ) is a part of the Arctic Oceanmarker located north of Norwaymarker and Russiamarker. Known in the Middle Ages as the Murman Sea, the sea takes its current name from the Dutchmarker navigator Willem Barents. It is a rather deep shelf sea (average depth and maximum depth ), bordered by the shelf edge towards the Norwegian Seamarker in the west, the island of Svalbardmarker (Norway) in the northwest, and the islands of Franz Josef Landmarker and Novaya Zemlyamarker (Russia) in the northeast and east. Novaya Zemlya separates the Kara Seamarker from the Barents Sea. Significant fossil fuel energy resources exist in the Barents Sea region.


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 Murmanskmarker (Russia) and Vardømarker (Norway) remain ice-free year round due to the warm North Atlantic drift. In September, the entire Barents Sea is more or less completely ice-free. Until the Winter War, Finlandmarker'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="" Front="" is="" formed.="" In="" western="" parts="" of="" 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 Zemlyamarker), it can be quite diffuse and its position can vary a lot between years.</35)>

The lands of Novaya Zemlya attained most their early Holocene coastal deglaciation approximately 10,000 years before present.


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. 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 Sea.


The Barents 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 Rivermarker's estuary, has been known as Pechorskoye Morye, that is, Pechora Sea.

This sea was given its present name in honor of Willem Barents, a Dutch navigator and explorer. Barents was the leader of early expeditions to the far north, at the end of the sixteenth century. Seabed mapping was completed in 1933 with the first full map produced by Russian marine geologist Maria Klenova.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Red Banner Northern Fleetmarker used the southern reaches of the Sea as a ballistic missile submarine bastion, a strategy that Russiamarker continues. Nuclear contamination from dumped Russian naval reactors is an environmental concern in the Barents Sea.

Oil exploration in the Barents Sea began in the 1970s. Discoveries were made on both the Russian and Norwegian sides. The first major producing field will be Snøhvit in the Norwegian sector. The largest discovery to date is the Shtokman field in the Russian sector. There is a boundary dispute between Norway and Russia, with the Norwegians favouring the Median Line and the Russians favouring a meridian based sector.

See also


  1. World Wildlife Fund, 2008.
  2. O. G. Austvik, 2006.
  3. J. Zeeberg, 2001.
  4. C.M. Hogan, 2008


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