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Photo: MAREANO/Havforskningsinstituttet
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This year’s first MAREANO mission starts off North Cape

Once again in 2010, the MAREANO project will carry out two three-week scientific missions with the research vessel “G. O. Sars”. The first one starts on 24 July, and the second one starts on17 September. This year’s activities start off North Cape and finish in Nordland VI, south-west of the Lofoten Islands. The aim is to map biodiversity, geology and biotopes in an 18,500 square kilometre area. Once completed, the MAREANO programme will have mapped a continuous area of sea including Troms I, Troms III, Troms II, Nordland VII and parts of Nordland VI.

By Børge Holte and Beate Hoddevik Sunnset

This year the area being mapped is being extended both south and north. In the south, the deepest parts of Nordland VI, which are up to 2,500 metres deep, are being included, and in the north-east the North Cape transect is being mapped. Around half way between these areas, in Troms III, a large area is to be mapped, along with the adjacent Loppa corridor, which touches MAREANO’s border towards the coast, four nautical miles outside Norwegian internal waters. This year’s activities start off Finnmark with the North Cape transect, before continuing in Troms III and concluding in Nordland VI.

The outer sections of the 2,000 square kilometre and 200-250 metre deep North Cape transect are not defined as vulnerable and valuable areas in the management plan for the Barents Sea and the areas off the Lofoten Islands. The transect is nevertheless representative of large areas of continental shelf to the north and east, and the mapping survey will probably help to describe northern biotopes that may be different from those in the MAREANO areas further south and west. This will add greater breadth to the biotopes covered by the MAREANO programme, which will in turn significantly increase the accuracy of any future attempt to value the relevant areas of the sea bottom. In the future, the results from Finnmark will also help us to monitor and document the impact of climate change in relation to species displacement in the Barents Sea.

Like the other areas already mapped by the MAREANO programme, Nordland VI is defined as a highly valuable area in the management plan for the Barents Sea and Lofoten Islands. From a resource management point of view, Nordland VI is important because it lies in the path of the current bringing water from the Atlantic Ocean, and is close to important spawning grounds for fish, which means that it is also where their larvae develop. There are also important commercial interests in the area. The MAREANO project, which amongst other things is documenting biotopes and ecosystems, will provide background data for the future management of the area.