Petroleum development a new threat for the Norwegian Barents SeaOslo, Norway - Within the next two weeks, the Norwegian Parliament is expected to approve Snowwhite, the first petroleum development in the Norwegian Barents Sea. Snowwhite lies near other, as yet undeveloped fields and its infrastructure makes it the key first step in large-scale oil and gas development in the region.
The Norwegian Ministry of the Environment and WWF, the conservation organization, have called for a comprehensive assessment of the potential long-term impact of all human activities in the fragile Barents Sea before petroleum development starts. The government has agreed to perform such an assessment, but refuses to put Snowwhite on hold in the meantime.
“By rushing forward with the major investments of the Snowwhite project, the government is reducing its chances to plan development so as to minimize impacts on the extremely fragile Barents Sea ecosystem”, says Samantha Smith, Director of WWF's Arctic Programme.“Before Norway starts development in the Barents Sea, authorities and industry should take a careful look at the resources that could be affected. Some of the areas at issue should just be off limits for petroleum development.”
The Barents Sea, which stretches along the northern coasts of Norway and western Russia, contains some of the world’s most important commercial fish stocks, producing more than 500 000 tonnes of fish each year in Norway alone. It also contains some of the world’s biggest seabird colonies and an important assemblage of marine mammals, including bowhead and beluga whales. WWF has identified the region as one of the world’s most important because of its high productivity. With the Barents’s year-round cold temperatures, winter darkness and simple food webs, a major blowout or transport accident could cause long-lasting damage.
“Snowwhite is only the first step in large-scale oil and gas activity, and much of what may come in the future is likely to be in and around globally important fisheries areas and seabird colonies,” says Samantha Smith. “The Goliath oil field, for example, is so near the coastline, colonies of seabirds and key fish spawning areas that effective response to a blowout or transport accident would be nearly impossible.”
For more information please contact:
Samantha Smith, Director, WWF Arctic Programme, +47 22 03 65 00/18 (office); +47 45 02 21 49 (mobile);email@example.com
Andreas Tveteraas, Marine Advisor, WWF-Norway, +47 22 03 65 00/12; +47 40 84 14 21 (mobile);firstname.lastname@example.org