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NORWEGIAN scientists  are playing  their part in a  new European Commission project, entitled ACCESS, designed to evaluate the economic impact of a warmer Arctic Ocean.

And  the research  includes study of how climate change could change market conditions for fisheries projects as well as looking at possible fish stock redistribution.

Scientists are probing  what effect having the Northern Sea Route – the sea route between Europe and Asia in the north – open in summer will have on settlement, transport, tourism, fishing, aquaculture, marine mammals and greenhouse gas emissions.

With the Barents Sea as a reference point, one of the work packages, which  researchers from Norway’s research and development group Nofima are leading, will mainly study conditions related to fisheries and aquaculture. This work package will involve scientists from research institutes in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Spain.

“The objectives include estimating and illustrating how climate changes impact on the fishing activities within the Arctic environment,” says scientist John R. Isaksen, who is heading Nofima’s part of the project. “For instance, we will study whether climate changes could impact on the distribution of fish and consequently on the fisheries activity and settlement pattern.

“We will also review effects from climate change on the aquaculture industry within the Arctic, including the environmental feed-back effects,” says the scientist.

The project also involves evaluating how climate changes can impact and possibly change the markets for products from these industries, and what impact national policies and regulations will have. If the oil price is changed dramatically, as a result of changes to tax policies, the most energy-intensive fisheries can become unprofitable. If consumer awareness of climate-related problems increases, demand for one type of fish can turn to another more environmentally-friendly species, say Nofima.

John R. Isaksen says the project also comprises experimental economic studies of the behavioural response of the fishing boat owners and other economic actors in Arctic fisheries to ecosystem changes (e.g. reduced fish stocks) and what effect policy interventions will have. Earlier studies concerning environmental matters and consumer behaviour will be used in these future scenarios.

 “This is a complex collaborative project in which the answer from one work package will influence other work packages and the conclusion in the final report,” says Isaksen. “We envisage that the project will result in an enhanced understanding of the consequences of climate change, and what changes this could lead to in terms of supply and demand in Europe generally and the High North in particular.”

ACCESS is part of the interdisciplinary programme “The ocean of tomorrow”, which is financed by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). The four-year long project commenced on March 1, 2011 and involves participants from 27 different research institutions throughout Europe.

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