The Ecosystem Survey is a joint international research investigation conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR) and the Polar Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography (PINRO) in Murmansk, Russia. The survey is of the Barents Sea ecosystem, and Jorgensen says that scientists take samples of "everything!"
— “We take grab samples of the ocean floor to find out what lives in bottom sediments. We use a beam trawl to sample what lives in the water column. We also use pelagic trawls to sample organisms that live farther up in the surface waters”, says Jørgensen.
In addition, scientists use sonar to estimate populations of different fish species. “We count everything that we bring on board, including: polychaete worms from bottom sediments; fish caught in trawls; marine mammals such as seals and whales that we observe; as well as birds. Pollution is also a concern, therefore we take water samples and document amounts and types of trash that drifts by”, says Jørgensen.
Farther North and Eastward
During recent years, Arctic ice has retreated farther and farther north and eastward; marine scientists have expanded the areas which they investigate accordingly.
— “We just need to find out if organisms are extending their range of distribution in response to the retreating sea ice.” As a consequence, the Norwegian research vessel "Helmer Hanssen" will travel farther north of Svalbard than previously and the Russian vessel "Vilnjus" will venture farther north and eastward of Franz Josef Land.
Basis for Scientific Advice
Jørgensen says that survey results for the basis of the scientific advice provided to set future fishing quotas.
— “Earlier surveys were linked to a particular species or a type of species. Now we investigate the entire ecosystem. We also take samples of stomach contents for various fish species. We can then determine who eats who. In this way we can better understand inter-species relationships in the Barents Sea ecosystem”, says Jørgensen.
Four Research Vessels
In total there are four research vessels taking part in the Ecosystem Survey: three Norwegian ("G. O. Sars", "Johan Hjort", and "Helmer Hanssen") which cover the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea; and one Russian ("Vilnjus") that covers the Russian part of the Barents Sea and the areas east of Franz Josef Land.
— “This year we also investigated Isfjorden and Billefjorden in Svalbard to learn more about the effects of climate change in that region”, says Jørgensen.
The Ecosystem Survey ends in late September / early October.