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Ecosystem survey of the Barents Sea (BESS)

The ecosystem survey monitors the state of the Barents Sea Ecosystem to support scientific research and management advice.


The BESS was initially started as a combination of several surveys in summer/autumn.  These surveys included three joint IMR-PINRO surveys; the 0-group pelagic trawl survey (including hydrography) conducted since 1965, the joint acoustic capelin survey conducted since 1975, a demersal trawl survey for juvenile Greenland halibut and redfish covering the areas north and east of Svalbard, as well as two additional Norwegian demersal trawl surveys. Since 2005 also the Norwegian shrimp survey (demersal trawl survey) was included into the multipurpose survey as we refer to as the BESS. These surveys supporting single stock fisheries assessments (e.g. capelin), providing long time series of specific ecosystem components (e.g. 0-group) and hydrographic conditions, and providing data on some ecosystem processes such as predation (e.g. stomach data from cod).

Aim of the survey

The aim of the ecosystem survey is to monitor the state of the Barents Sea Ecosystem to support scientific research and management advice.

Data collection during BESS supports:

  • advisory capacity for commercially important species, for non-commercial iconic species
  • development of high quality publishable science
  • technological development (and benefit from them)

Key monitoring activities

  • Biological ecosystem components (abundance, biomass and coverage)
  • Capelin (commercial)
  • Polar cod, young herring and blue whiting (commercial)
  • 0-group fishes (commercial)
  • Cod, haddock and young Greenland halibut (commercial)
  • Northern shrimp (commercial)
  • Red King crab and Snow crab (commercial)
  • Sea mammals (commercial)
  • Plankton (environmental indicator)
  • Benthos (environmental indicator)
  • Sea birds (environmental indicator)
  • Identification and registration of all invertebrates and vertebrates of the total catch from all sampling gears (Biodiversity index)
  • Fish and invertebrates health and parasite fauna variation.

Physical/Chemical ecosystem components

  • Salinity, temperature as area coverage and transects.
  • Radioactivity, pollution and ocean acidification

Barents Sea Facts

Russian name: Barentsevo More
Size: 1.4 million km2 in surface area (approximately four times as large as Norway).
Depth: Average depth = 230 m, Maximum depth = 500 m
Fisheries: Bottom fish such as cod, haddock, Greenland halibut, long rough dab, and redfish. Other commercially important species include: capelin; northern shrimp; minke whales, and harp seals
Special features:

  • Large annual variations in temperature relative to ice coverage
  • A shallow sea which makes up a portion of the continental shelf around the Arctic Ocean
  • Has one of the largest concentrations of sea birds in the world: approximately 20 million individuals distributed across 40 different species
  • Management of living marine resources in the Barents Sea is carried out through collaboration between Norway and Russia.
The Barent Sea Ecosystem