A politically important region

The coast guard ship K/V Svalbard on a research mission in the Framstredet strait The coast guard ship K/V Svalbard on a research mission in the Framstredet strait. Illustration: Sebastian Gerland, The Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) The present Norwegian government has made the northern regions its most important strategic area of commitment, because they represent enormous opportunities and also challenges.

The Barents Sea is of strategic importance on several counts, particularly with regard to energy, resource management and the environment. In the fishery protection zone around Svalbard there is international disagreement regarding fishing, and production of oil and gas in the North earns the attention of politicians in many countries. Estimates indicate that the Arctic – principally Russian territory but also the Norwegian Arctic – may have as much as 25 % of the world's remaining petroleum resources. North-western Russia is, moreover, militarily strategically important. Espen Barth Eide, the State Secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Defence, concluded in 2006 that, in terms of security, conflicts of interest in relation to Russia are the greatest challenge facing Norway.

The melting of ice on land in the Arctic helps to raise the sea level globally and may lead to changes in the pattern of ocean currents that are of great importance for the Earth's climate. The region is also an indicator of the state of the environment on the Earth because little pollution is generated here and most pollutants are transported by air and sea from far distant lands. To be able to keep apace with the trend and take any necessary steps, it is important to have good knowledge about the arctic system.