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Cold waters

Norwegian waters cover wide areas, with rich biodiversity and a varied spectrum of marine ecosystems. Marbank collects samples of marine organisms from fjords and open sea areas within Norwegian jurisdiction.  The centre of attention is the more northern area, i.e. the coast of Northern Norway, The Barents Sea and areas around the Svalbard Archipelago where the combination of extreme temperature and special light conditions has led to the evolution of organisms with unique properties and potentially valuable bioactive compounds.

Photo: Eivor Lid Gamst, Copyright: Eivor Lid Gamst, Marbank

So far, the main international focus in marine bioprospecting has been on organisms that occur in tropical and temperate waters. The cold waters and the Arctic are largely unexplored and, hence, offering good prospect of finding novel bioactive compounds. The cold marine environment has already proven to be a highly valuable source of enzymes with interesting biological properties. Many cold-evolved enzymes have highly specific activity at low temperatures and are commonly – but not always - associated with a high degree of heat-lability compared to similar enzymes. These are among features in cold-adapted marine organisms that are commercially interesting.

The Norwegian Government has promoted a national strategy on marine bioprospecting. Marine bioprospecting combines Norway’s long tradition of harvesting the sea with marine science and biotechnology. The national strategy is part of the Norwegian Government’s High North strategy which is one of the most important priorities for the years ahead. The Government’s overall objective is to create sustainable growth and development by combining the use of natural resources, environmental management, research and innovation. Extensive international cooperation is needed and genuinely appreciated.