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WWF: Russia should have a say in Barents impact study

Oil or fisheries? Russian environmentalists want to have a say if Norway opens the waters in Barents Sea for oil drilling. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Norwegian drilling for oil in the southeastern Barents Sea could be a threat to common bio-resources. WWF Barents office in Murmansk wants Norway to include Russian organizations in the on-going environmental impact hearings.

Location

The Norwegian Ministry of Oil and Energy has circulated a draft discussion document for possible opening of Norway’s southeastern sector of the Barents Sea for oil and gas exploration. Many Norwegian organizations and institutions have submitted their statements. The area in question includes the waters up to the maritime border with Russia.

WWF Russia’s Barents Sea office in Murmansk is now requesting the Foreign Ministry in Moscow to get domestic organizations involved in the impact study taking place on the Norwegian side. In a press-release sent to BarentsObserver, WWF argues an oil-spill accident on the Norwegian side will have serious consequences also for Russian fisheries. Both cod and haddock swimming on the Russian side have the Norwegian waters as breeding ground, the organization says.

“Our communication proposing to conduct a trans-border environmental impact study is prompted by the face that last year we obtained the results of an independent modeling of oil spills I the Russian sector of the Barents Sea, the Prirazlomnoye field, which foresaw a large-scale potential zone of pollution and most importantly the lack of preparedness and effective technology for eliminating oil spills in the Arctic,” says Alexey Knizhnikov, coordinator of Environmental Policy program for petroleum with WWF Russia.

“We want to use this experience to assess the consequences of accidents at our neighbors in terms of how an accident there could impact our common bio-resources.”

The area in question was until 2011 a part of the disputed zone in the Barents Sea. Norway and Russia signed the delimitation deal for the area in 2010, a deal which came into effect from July 2011. Norwegian seismic vessel then immediately started to map the geological structures for potential petroleum resources. 

In Norway, seven environmental organizations have submitted a statement to the oil ministry calling for a permanent moratorium on oil drilling in the southeastern part of the Barents Sea.