The Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs given responsibility for setting up BarentsWatch
The Norwegian Government has decided to give the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs the responsibility for setting up a new, full-spectrum monitoring and information system for the Northern sea and coastal areas (“BarentsWatch”). The work will be headed up by the Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA). The Norwegian Mapping Authority, the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and many other specialist bodies will be involved in the work.
The plan is for BarentsWatch to be developed in several phases, the first of which will involve the creation of a public information portal for the sea areas. The operations center for the portal will be located in Tromsø. In parallel with the establishment of this open system, a closed, operational system will be developed to combine information from various sources in order to facilitate dealing with special situations. The plan is for this closed system to be linked to the Vessel Traffic Service centre at Vardø.
BarentsWatch is envisaged as a vital tool for providing the Norwegian authorities with a coherent picture of what may be happening at any time in the very extensive sea areas in the North. This in turn will serve to strengthen Norway’s role as a responsible manager of the sea areas and thereby safeguard the substantial assets they represent.
The Government gave advance notice in its High North Strategy of 2006 that it aimed to develop a full-spectrum monitoring and warning system for the Northern sea areas. This system will provide constant access to quality-assured data on the Northern sea and coastal areas, and ensure clear, up-to-date status information in the event of accidents, for risk evaluation of activities at sea, and for national and international climate, resource and environmental assessments. The system will also be capable of supporting Norwegian foreign policy.
In October 2009, the three Norwegian Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Fisheries and the Environment established an interim project commission for BarentsWatch, with its own secretariat. This was given the remit to specify an initial version of a full-spectrum monitoring and warning system, including cost and budget estimates, and financial and administrative consequences. On 7 June 2010, the project commission submitted its final report to the three ministries.
The first version of BarentsWatch will collate data and information from existing Norwegian sectoral systems, with two objectives: to establish an open information portal for the general public, and to contribute to establishing more coherent data sets, adapted to administrative and operational requirements. The system is to be developed gradually, and will require close cooperation between a number of Norwegian governmental and research institutions. The plan is for the work of developing a closed system to take place in parallel with the setting up of the publicly accessible section of BarentsWatch.