Norway just about to start its Arctic oil drilling

Yesterday marked a new step in race against Arctic oil drilling. As a long term reader of this blog, you might have followed the blog updates on how Arctic oil drilling, more specifically in the South-East Barents Sea, is extremely destructive for all life that lives there. We know both that seismic activity can be hazardous for marine life, and we definitely know that all oil and gass found in the Arctic must stay in the ground if we are to reach the 2 degree target. 

That is why it was particularly devastating yesterday, when Statoil, regardless of all climate recommendations, still went ahead and sent up its first oil rig, Songa Enabler, to drill for oil from now and all throughout the summer. This is part of what is called the 23rd concession round, where oil licences where handed out in the South-East Barents Sea. 

In Norway, we are so fortunate to have a constitution that speaks in quite strong language about how we want our climate to be. The wording of §112 sounds like this: 

'Every person has a right to an environment that is conducive to health and to a natural environment whose productivity and diversity are maintained. Natural resources should be managed on the basis of comprehensive long-term considerations whereby this right will be safeguarded for future generations as well. 

In order to safeguard their right in accordance with the foregoing paragraph, citizens are entitled to information on the state of the natural environment and on the effects of any encroachment on nature that is planned or carried out. 

The authorities of the State shall issue specific provisions for the implementation of these principles.' 

Because of the inconsistency between these words in our constitution and what our government is actually doing, and also the fact that our chosen politicians were just as quick to sign the Paris agreement as they were to hand out new oil licences, that is the reason why several Norwegian environmental organisations, lead by Greenpeace and Nature and Youth, are now suing the Norwegian state over Arctic oil drilling. The lawsuit agains the Norwegian state now has a court date, and it is set to the 13th of November. 

These are exciting times to be an environmentalist, even though Big Oil still hasn't realised its era is coming to a close. It is neither financially nor environmentally sound to invest in fossile fuels compared to renewable

Luckily, there are forces both within and outside of Norway that sees this, and hopefully this will win through in the court case against Arctic oil drilling. If you want to do more, please feel free to add your name to the lawsuit, as one of the over 8 million who supports this. 

As always, thank you for reading. <3

Remember, sharing is caring, and we collectively really need to care about the Arctic, because what happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic. 

Final results and conclusions!

3.12 Current oil spill recovery systems for oil in ice

A study done in Canada by Look North named ‘Oil Spill Detection and Modelling in Hudson and Davis Straits’ (2014) summarizes how in most oil spill models available, sea ice is not a factor, and for the studies where it is added, the risks are down-played and over-simplified. There is a good body of knowledge on how to retrieve oil in tempered water, but limited on how oil behaves in cold water. The field research on Arctic oil spill is also limited, and a knowledge gap remains connected to the challenges surrounding ice.

3.13 Oil spill surveillance in Arctic waters

The SINTEF report ‘The Utilization of Satellite Images for the Oil in Ice Experiment in the Barents Sea, May 2009’, funded by the 6 oil companies; Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Eni Agip Kco, Statoil, Shell and Total, describe how a combination of aerial and satellite surveillance has become the preferred method for monitoring off shore areas where an oil spill could occur in open waters. The aim was to test if the same conditions applied for the Barents Sea. This report was the outcome of a joint industry program with the aim to learn more about how oil behaves in ice covered waters. After several tests where oil was spilt under controlled conditions it was found that if the ice density was higher than 40%, it was impossible to trace an oil spill that had occurred under the ice with the current satellite monitoring. This caused concern as this means that it is not only no oil spill recovery system that is currently available that would be able to collect spilled oil, but an oil spill will neither be possible to spot, as the concentration of ice in the Barents Sea can be over 40% all year around, and with most of the year it is a certainty that it will be frozen near the Polar Front and the Ice Edge. 

4.0 Results and Analysis

This chapter aims at drawing conclusions from the main body of data and analyzes the findings from the case study in light of the literature review. 

4.1 Implications of Research Findings

In question 5 of the case study when I asked ‘Has anyone informed specifically about the risks of an oil spill for you who live close to the South-East Barents Sea?’ and the unanimous answer was ‘No’ could be an indicator towards that the Coastal Sámi I interviewed could have received such information from the Sámi Parliament, but this dissertation claims that even the Sámi Parliament can not have been given adequate information on this, as there are no scientific solutions on how to treat an oil spill in ice covered waters. This breaks with The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that Norway has signed on the ‘Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent’. 

4.2 Conclusions

When treating land and sea resources where indigenous communities are involved it is necessary to meet the indigenous on their terms. The ocean holds a great value to the Coastal Sámi inhabitants, both as the primary source of food, but with a strong sense of identity being connected to the continuous living near the ocean. The planned oil activity in the South-East Barents Sea will pose a threat already under safe practice, as the seismic shooting the Norwegian oil industry uses in order to locate oil wells have a negative effect on larvae and fry that are to spend the first part of their lives in these areas. Among a limited amount of research on the effects on other fish species than cod and larger sea mammals from seismic shooting, there is still not a finished mapping of the sea bottom, which makes it impossible to predict further consequences of the marine life before 2020 when the sea bottom report is estimated to be finished. Large scale oil spill recovery test were made in the Barents Sea on a joint program by 6 oil companies that own oil concessions in the Arctic to test if the methods they had developed could be used in cleaning oil from ice covered waters. The results concluded that they had learnt a great deal from the experiments, but there are still many insecurities, both regarding how the oil changes and behaves in such cold waters, but the greatest gap in knowledge remains on how to extract oil that is trapped under or between the ice. The part of the oil spill program that regarded monitoring of oil under ice concluded that a higher ice density than 40% makes it impossible to spot the oil from under the ice when satellite monitoring is used, which is the preferred method for detecting oil spills in open waters. 

4.2.1 Recommendations based on key findings

Based on the key findings from both the case study and the literature review this dissertation recommends to decision makers, in this case the state of Norway: 

  1. An Arctic Legal Treaty should be drawn up specifically regarding the topic of how natural resources in and around the sea should be distributed between the Sámi population and the non-indigenous population of Norway. 
  2. As the sea bottom of the Barents Sea is currently being mapped by Mareano, and this report is estimated to be finalized in 2020, this dissertation recommends that no oil license allocations are made before this process is finalized so marine habitat can be preserved and important natural values will be saved.
  3. The IPCC estimates that the climate emissions needs to decrease 85% within 2050, and 40% within 2020 in order to avoid a temperature increase on more than 2 degrees celsius, and in order for Norway to achieve this, who has set out to reduced their national emissions with 20% within 2020, even Statoil's manager Helge Lund has said that it is a necessary to leave some of the oil reservoirs unexplored. This dissertation recommend that these areas are the South-East Barents Sea areas. 

4.3 Literature and methodological discussion

The literature of this dissertation was gathered in the request of highlighting as broadly as possible how Arctic oil drilling is a new policy step for Norway as an oil nation, and how prior knowledge from more southern latitudes will not be sufficient to safely drill for oil in the Arctic regions of Norway. The aim was to highlight the Coastal Sámi’s perspective on the consequences of an oil spill in their close environment. My chosen method was to contact Coastal Sámis as individual persons, not the organizations that represent them. The organizations were contacted, but only to ask if members were willing to participate. This might have been a flaw of the study, and more politically engaged members of the Sámi community could maybe have been a part of the study if they spoke on behalf of their organizations. Another methodological concern is the decision to not consult ‘experts’ from outside the Sámi community. The study could have been broadened by adding a closer perspective from academics working on issues concerning Sámi rights. Additional depth could have been gained if glaciologists and biologists who specialize in how oil affects the nature were consulted directly, and not only through academic sources. However, from the case study that was executed the answers served a great purpose of highlighting the same concerns that the scientific community raises. 

Recommendations to the Norwegian Parliament on petroleum business in the Barents Sea and Sámi conditions

3.10 Recommendations to the Norwegian Parliament on petroleum business in the Barents Sea and Sámi conditions

Einar Eythórsson’s report ‘Petroleumvirksomhet i Lofoten - Barentshavet og samisk forhold’ (‘Petroleum business in Lofoten - Barents Sea and Sámi conditions’) (2003) was one of two official recommendation reports produced on demand for the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy to consider how Sámi interests would be affected with an all-year petroleum activity in these areas. The lead author of this report Einar Eythórsson points out, both within the report but also on an independent science news website for Norwegian science, how he felt the time the research group was given was not sufficient to give a wholesome and representative recommendation report. He demanded at one point that as they had only been given less than 2 months to state all the risks involved for the Sámi with letting the petroleum industry near their coast, this could hardly be adequate to give justice to all the multiple effects that could come of this. The researchers demanded that they should either be allowed to print this clause in the finished document, or they would refuse to publish what they had gathered of information at all. The report ended up being printed with the clause, but regardless it was considered to hold enough information to form an official opinion on petroleum activity in the Barents Sea. 

The report is based on what is considered the six Sámi regions, in total 17 municipalities in the Northern Norway. Except inner Finnmark, all the Coastal Sámi communities experience depopulation and shortage in traditional ways to make a livelihood. When planning where an eventual onshore land base for the petroleum could be located, it is important to localize where the Sámi have their settlements. The Sámi’s traditional fishing includes not only coastal and fjord fishing, but fishing in ice covered waters and in boats that can manage deep seas far from the shore. This needs to be taken into consideration when drawing the lines for what are Sámi interest areas at sea. 

3.11 Oil spills under ice and health effects on Arctic humans

The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) concludes in its final report ‘Arctic Oil and Gas 2007’ that oil activity can never fully be risk free, due to how tankers can spill transported oil, pipelines can start leaking, as well as accidents, even under the strictest of regulations. The social and economic effects oil activity will have for Arctic people, among them indigenous, are dependent on how involved the Arctic people is on decision making. The report recommends that prior to opening new areas for oil and gas exploration, or building the infrastructure to make these types of industries possible, the indigenous communities must be consulted so the negative effects can be held at a minimum and that the indigenous communities receive the maximum of the benefits from developing a new infrastructure. Their traditional knowledge can be used both for planning what areas to avoid building in, as these could be significant to the indigenous communities. How environmental monitoring has previously been done can provide a double security when what is available of modern technology equipment is combined with how the environment has used to change. When regarding how the indigenous might want employment in the oil industry, it is worth considering the effect it would have for a small indigenous community if the majority of the adult generation stops doing traditional activities as fishing due to a better salary in the oil industry. Generation gaps like this can have unforeseen effects on smaller communities. 

On the effects oil will have on the environment and ecosystems of the Arctic, the report states how the Arctic surface environments are one of places on Earth that will show clearest evidence of alteration, and for the marine environment the main cause of change comes from oil spills. How oil behaves in Arctic waters is so unknown that a high sensitivity towards what the species already living there can manage must be the ultimate goal for any oil exploration. The Exxon Valdez oil spill continues to affect the environment for decades, and as there has currently been no major oil spill in the Arctic we can not know the long term effects. 

Humans can be affected by exposure to petroleum hydrocarbons and this is mainly caused by an oil spill. The food security can also experience a risk of being altered either in quality, quantity or availability, this is directly linked to the state of the marine animals, as the main food source for most indigenous people living in the Arctic comes from the ocean, as the soil is too cold for agriculture. The overall picture of how petroleum hydrocarbons affect human health in the Arctic is complex at best. 

Oil spill response programs where ice is present hold a major challenge for all Arctic states exploring the option of oil activity. Most of the equipment suggested for use today were not designed to be used in an Arctic environment, and will therefore be inadequate when combating spills. This illustration shows the bio network of the Barents Sea (see figure 2). The whales in this area have needed a long time to grow in population size after centuries of hunting. It is only recently starting to pick itself up. Oil drilling and gas activity are the new threats facing the Barents Sea, and with such an abundant marine life the consequences of an oil spill could be hazardous. 

A key finding of the AMAP report is how there are no effective means of gathering or rinsing up an oil spill in broken sea ice (See figure 3). Oil spill responding in the winter adds to the impossibility as there will be no light between November and January (Arktisk system) and the darkness coincides with the harsh weather predictions of winter storms. If an oil spill were to happen in the winter on land or on the top of the unbroken sea ice, this would be easier to retrieve, as long as it can be finalized before spring time, when oil would sink under the ice. So far with the current technology the best recommendation from the AMAP study is to prevent an oil spill, rather than being dependent on an oil spill recovery system. The report suggests that this is still an area where new technology is needed, particularly for oil under ice and in broken ice, which might easily be the case if oil exploration takes place in the South-East Barents Sea, where the Ice Edge and Polar Front pose both of these challenges. 

Figure 2: Simplified Barent Sea food-web The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) ‘Arctic Oil and Gas 2007’

Figure 2: Simplified Barent Sea food-web The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) ‘Arctic Oil and Gas 2007’

Figure 3: The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) ‘Arctic Oil and Gas 2007’

Figure 3: The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) ‘Arctic Oil and Gas 2007’

Concerns from a Coastal Sámi organization on rights to the natural resources

3.8 Concerns from a Coastal Sámi organization on rights to the natural resources

Bivdi, a Coastal Sámi interest organization for promoting and safeguarding the Coastal Sámi’s interests and rights to the sea, explains how the Coastal Sámi culture is likely to be the oldest culture in Norway, and the oldest in Sámi context. By using the coastal areas for fishing, the Coastal Sámi have gathered knowledge and rights from having done so in a very long timeframe. Their entire settlements, livestock and identity are based around the marine resources. Experience-based knowledge has throughout the ages designed an adaptable commercial activity and coastal culture. However, Bivdi has its basis in that the resources for fishing and the other marine resources and rights in the nearby areas belong to the community. These are rights that cannot be invested in, and will not be a traded good for capitalistic interest, but needs to be the foundation for a continuously viable community. During the past hundred years, the Coastal Sámi fishers have been in dialog with the authorities to report back what the situation is at sea, and what is needed for the Coastal Sámi to protect their rights. Bivdi reports that this has been experienced as a hopeless struggle where the Coastal Sámi have continuously been the losing part. This is why they claim that today the result is the long term effects of a failed fishing policy and the consequences of the marked forces, which is a dramatic reduction in resources and many rural Coastal Sámi communities have been abandoned. Their strategy as an organization includes that fishing zones are established, and where there is doubt, the rights should be given back to the local communities. The commercial activity needs to be agreeable with the joint local management, meaning experience-based knowledge will be a part of the wider management. Bivdi welcomes new technology and knowledge when this is used alongside a Coastal Sámi way of sustainable thinking. There is a need for research from a Coastal Sámi perspective, and in this fjord and coastal communities have a joint agenda not considering whether the population living there are Sámi or non-Sámi. The exploitation of the marine resources is of collective interest and by establishing an indigenous zone Bivdi exclaims how this would aid in building a stronger protective area around their resources. This would also help the social rights for Coastal Sámi that need improving including infrastructure and their livestock. 

The report ‘Our common future’ under the chapter on ‘Empowering Vulnerable Groups’ states that it is a ‘Terrible irony that as formal development reaches more deeply into rain forests, deserts, and other isolated environments, it tends to destroy the only cultures that have proved able to thrive in these environments.’ (WCED, 1987: 115) This holds true for the Sámi population of the far most northern municipalities of Norway. 

The book ‘Arctic oil and gas - Sustainability at risk?’ (2008) opens up a new angle to the Barents Sea oil reservoirs; as the non-Sámi population is not a homogeneous groups, neither are the Sámi. Within the Sámi Parliament there are members advocating that the petroleum reservoirs found on Sámi territory should rightfully go to the Sámi. This view does not indicate that the petroleum would be extracted or refined by the Sámi population, as they do not claim the sole right to the petroleum findings, but the main consideration is that as these potential oil and gas findings are located in Sámi territories it is their right that this should benefit the Sámi. The Sámi parliament got a UN resolution from the Human Rights Council declaring that indigenous rights include resources in and bellow the sea, to hand over to the Norwegian Parliament when considering the management of the petroleum found in the South-East Barents Sea. 

On Article 10 in The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

A potential positive consequence of the petroleum industry’s expansion in Finnmark for the Sami population is the possible employment possibilities. Meanwhile, there are some prerequisites that must be in order for this to be beneficial for the Sámi. Experiences made when the ‘Snøhvit’ field was being constructed saw that the wider community was greatly beneficial, in that already existing building firms could be part of aiding the ‘Snøhvit’ building site. There are no known documentations on how this employment affected the Sámi part of the population. It is therefore necessary to explore why the Sámi population can differ so greatly from the non-Sámi. Previous research done by Vistnes et. al. (2008) shows that education relevant for the petroleum industry tends to be lower in municipalities where the majority of the population is Sámi, or have strong Sámi connections, such as all of Finnmark. This means that the competence building that the petroleum industry promise would benefit the inhabitants of Finnmark only to a lesser degree will benefit the Sámi population. Two possible outcomes of this situation that the impact assessment report suggest is that either the Sámi could work in the parts of the petroleum that does not require higher education, or that by seeing how the petroleum industry is growing be motivated to take the necessary higher education. This however is based on the assumptions that 1. The Sámi want to work for the petroleum industry and 2. That they are not already otherwise employed or preoccupied. The indirect effects of this expansion is that the non-Sámi population might grow in cities close to Sámi settlements, and in cities with a high percentage of Sámi inhabitants such as Kirkenes and Vadsø, and this can lead to a higher demand of Sámi made products. Another possible outcome of the indirect effect is that the competition from the petroleum industry will take workers away from what have traditionally been Sámi livelihoods, leading to the diminishing of the Sámi way of life. 

During the past 30-40 years Finnmark has experienced a depopulation of 10 percent, this holds true for municipalities with a strong Sámi connection as well. In Kvalsund however, a municipality with a high population of Sámi had a decreasing population right up until the Snøhvit gas field was being built. After the constructions started the population has now been stabilized. Even though, as above stated, education relevant for the petroleum industry is scarce in Finnmark, it is still a goal that the local population contributes and benefits from the industry. For many of its inhabitants and the labour that comes from other areas of the country this means that relocation is necessary, this can even be areas where the Sámi have traditionally had their settlements. If the petroleum industry settles for a LNG onshore solution, and this is situated east in Finnmark, this can be problematic for the already small Sámi population already living there. 

The report suggests that for the Sámi part of the population that lives in the cities it is equally important as for the Sámi who rely on the primary industry, that their ways of expressing their cultural identity gets an outburst. Strong Sámi institutions for education and science can be equally important for cultural expression as the primary industry. The consequences of the petroleum industry’s expansions seem to be largely negative for the primary sector, although this is not necessarily the same for the Sámi living in the cities. 

Within the official recommendation report it is stated that the northern parts of the South-East Barents Sea flake will experience that where Arctic waters meet the warmer Atlantic water the Polar Front will manifest itself. The report also agrees that the Ice Edge and the Polar Front are the foundations for a high biological production and an important breeding area for sea birds and sea mammals, with the most important seasons being the spring and summer. Nevertheless the request of opening up the South-East Barents Sea for an all year petroleum activity comes within the same document as this biological vulnerability is stated, and without specifying further the possible effects of what happens when oil meets the Polar Front. A prerequisite for this opening at the time was that this was the furthest north Norway had ever done oil drilling, and going beyond this was not recommendable. The report was approved by the Norwegian Parliament and the official recommendation of opening it came the 19th of June 2013. Only 3 months later Norway got a new government after 8 years of a socialist-left coalition. The new government was formed by the two largest conservative parties. In Norway the formal procedure for opening up new areas for oil production is first to have an impact assessment done, while this is being produced seismic shooting can be performed to locate an eventual oil well,  and if both of these elements are in order, the Parliament gives the permission for opening the new area for oil drilling and licensing rounds are held for the oil companies to choose their areas. The former government was record holding in having opened up and given away more concession rounds than all former governments in Norwegian oil history combined (SNL). This summer on the 17th of August the new government under the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy started seismic shooting in the Svalbard zone, an area where Norway’s sovereignty is politically disputed, without having started an impact assessment. In regards of giving the Sámi population a free informed prior consent, which is their right through Article 10 in The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) on what is happening to their territories, it can be argued that the Sámi are not informed that when an impact assessment is being done, the process of opening the area for oil production have already begun, as no area that has undergone an impact assessment in Norwegian oil history has ever been left alone afterwards. By not stating this fact, information is necessarily held back. The seismic shooting around the Svalbard zone got national attention when Greenpeace Norway alerted the public news that Svalbard and The Barents Sea North was under threat of being unofficially opened, and the environmental movement in Norway alongside concerned political parties pressured the sitting government to stop the seismic shooting one month before it was scheduled to be finished.

Food Security for the Sámi and the Health of Species living in the Arctic

3.5 Food Security for the Sámi and the Health of Species living in the Arctic

The Arctic Council and Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) writes in the extensive report ‘Oil and Gas Activities in the Arctic: Effects and Potential Effects’ (2007) on how seals and whales are normally not that sensitive towards outer affection of an oil spill. This is due to their thick layers of blubber that protects them against heat loss, and the skin of whales and walruses are robust enough to not take harm from contact with oil. Baby seals with fur however are very sensitive towards oil, equally so are polar bears, sea otters and Northern fur seals. 

The report states how oil spills in ice covered waters will be severely difficult to rinse up and with the added potential that the oil stays for a long time in the waters. Important areas where sea birds come to hunt for food and whales and seals comes to breath are openings in the ice, such as reads and so called polynyas, which are ice free areas due to wind and leeward sides produced by islands. Because of the need for keeping these areas free of oil, the whales are also considered sensitive towards oil spills. In all areas where birds and mammals appear densely packed in the Arctic will be areas that are vulnerable towards oil spills or disturbances from the petroleum industry. 

3.6 The formal process of opening the South-East Barents Sea for petroleum

The State Report ‘Meld. St. 36 (2012-2013) Melding til Stortinget Nye muligheter for Nord-Norge - åpning av Barentshavet sørøst for petroleumsvirksomhet’ (‘Message to the Parliament New possibilities for North-Norway - opening of the South-East Barents Sea to petroleum recovery’) is a recommendation report written on the basis of the impact assessment done by several affected actors, among them the Sámi Parliament representing the interest of the Sámi population when considering whether it is responsible to open the South-East Barents Sea to the petroleum industry. The chapter of the impact assessment regarding how the Sámi interest will be affected is based on an independent study done by the consultancy firm Pöyry (2012) that considers the Sámi’s commercial activities such as reindeer husbandry, fishing, rural livelihoods and forest pasture, in addition to employment, competencies, settlements, expression of culture and identity development. The scenarios that are considered in this assessment are only the effects on the Sámi population during ordinary petroleum activity, meaning without any leaks or other emissions to their close environment. This is the gap this master is trying to fill; what if something goes wrong? 

Chapter 8 ‘Betydningen for samiske forhold' (‘The Significance for Sámi conditions’) in the report ‘Ringvirkninger av petroleums- virksomhet ved Barentshavet sørøst Konsekvensutredning for Barentshavet sørøst Utarbeidet på oppdrag fra Olje- og energidepartementet’ (‘Ripple effects of the petroleum activity in the South-East Barents Sea Impact assessment for the South-East Barents Sea commissioned on behalf of the Ministry of Oil and Energy’) considers how Sámi interests are affected. Sámi areas are all the areas that the Sámi use or live in, practically speaking this covers all of Finnmark, northernmost municipality in Norway, as a Sámi area. The Sámi way of making a livelihood involves reindeer husbandry, fishing, rural livelihoods and forest pasture, of these the fishing, rural livelihood and forest pasture will be affected by the petroleum expansion, both for the Sámi and non-Sámi population. The petroleum industry’s impact on the reindeer husbandries will however only affect the Sámi, as they are the only population in Norway that exercises this. It is only a small number of the Sámi population that exercise reindeer husbandry, although it is considered a significant part of Sámi culture expression and identity. An explanation to this can be found in Vistnes et. al. (2008) where it is suggested that the reindeer husbandry has in a lesser degree been ‘Norwegianised’, as for example the Coastal Sámi culture has experienced. The report looks on the direct consequences the petroleum expansion will have for Sámi livelihoods. There can however also be indirect consequences given that the Sámi and the petroleum industry will want the same employees, and as the Sámi’s way of cultivating their land is so closely knit with their expression of culture and identity, this can present a challenge. As this master focuses on the Coastal Sámi in particular, it will only very briefly touch upon what the effects of the petroleum industry can lead to with the reindeers. Local direct effects, as building a road necessary for the petroleum expansion through a grazing area, can lead to disturbance of single reindeers as increased stress may shorten their life expectancy. Regional indirect effects on the herd as a whole can occur if reindeer shun the areas where they know they are likely to be disturbed and because of this they end up being rounded up in smaller grazing areas, where they may over-stretch the capacity of the given land, causing the reindeer to not gain as much body reservoirs as is necessary before the cold season. The cumulative long-term effect of the production is reduced health for the reindeers, leading to a fall in the reindeer husbandry for the herding Sámi population. 

When considering what areas within the fishing industry that are considered of Sámi interest, the general consensus is that the Coastal Sámi population has mainly focused on fishing in the fjords and nearby coastal districts, even thought many Sámi participate in fishing off shore with active fishing equipment. On this basis these sources suggest that it is not purposeful of the impact assessment to make a divide between the Sámi population and the non-Sámi population in questions regarding how the petroleum will affect the fishing industry in Finnmark. The breeding industry for fish has become an important industry in many fjords with Sámi settlement, which has caused the breeding industry to be counted upon as a Sámi industry. The way fish will be affected by the petroleum will in turn have direct consequences for the Sámi conditions. 

The Sámi's use of agriculture and forest pasture is a traditional part of the Sámi living. In addition to reindeer husbandry, their livelihood also includes grouse hunting in the forest pasture and fishing. Today, these are only considered subsidiary income sources for the Sámi, with a difficulties recruiting. However, the agriculture is very important for Sámi families, as the family is an economic production unit, and places where the Sámi can fish and hunt are considered important factors for where to make settlements, in addition to being culturally important. The way Sámi agriculture in Finnmark would be affected in a high risk scenario of the expansion of the petroleum industry would be if Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) (see Glossary) constructions were built on shore that took up the areas where the Sámi traditionally have done their hunting, or where they have their settlements. In addition comes the possible pollution the construction can have on the outskirts. In a low risk scenario the petroleum constructions would be off shore. This would lead to a lesser impact on the Sámi settlements, although it opens up to a range of other potential threats of how petroleum construction sites at sea can harm the environment that in turn will harm the Sámi through their fishing.

Thoughts on an Arctic Legal Treaty Recognizing its indigenous population

3.2 Thoughts on an Arctic Legal Treaty Recognizing its indigenous population

The ‘Law of the Sea Report, Vol. 3 (2012) No. 1 Don’t leave the Sámi out in the cold: The Arctic region needs a binding treaty that recognizes its indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and free, prior and informed consent’ discusses how the indigenous people living in the Arctic have adapted their way of life in the cold for thousands of years in order to develop the necessary resilience, and how their culture and spiritual traditions have formed their own way of relating to the ecosystem called ‘Traditional Ecological Knowledge’ (TEK). This TEK makes it possible for the indigenous to interpret weather signs and accordingly predict the weather, but due to the extreme changes caused by climate change, predicting the weather has become harder, and as they can no longer with certainty rely on what was previously considered reliable sources of information, their security has decreased. The indigenous people of the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia are called the Sámi. Their nation is called Sámpi, even though this is a nation without a state or borders, but the inhabitants of the area share the same history, culture, language and way of life. The entire Sámi population is estimated to lie between 70,000 and 100,000, where the majority is found within Norway. After the Inuits, they are the second largest indigenous group living in the Arctic and within the Sámi population there is a divide between coastal and river Sámi, mountain Sámi, forest Sámi and eastern Sámi, however, they view themselves as one people. Under the section ‘Environmental Protection’ the report explains how the Arctic has a highly complex ecosystem and how this makes it even more vulnerable to interferences. To disconnect Sámi from their land can cause cultural genocide. The source further suggests that the result of environmental changes that may cause difficulties for the Sámi must be addressed in an Arctic treaty that will protect Sámi and indigenous people living in the Arctic’s rights for protection of land and resources. This is not only in the interest of the Sámi, but also the Arctic states, as the trans-boundary pollution and over-exploitation will contaminate the Sámi’s land alongside the Arctic states resources. Article 192 of the 1982 UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) says that nations have an ‘obligation to protect and preserve the marine environment.’(UN LOS) The report further suggests that this should also include management of the Arctic’s resources, including gas, oil and marine life, in addition to, the recognition of the indigenous peoples’ right to enjoyment of their land, which includes the right to enjoy the land’s resources. The state’s interest of utilizing these areas should not infringe on this right. Article 134 on ice-covered areas note how areas with ‘particularly severe climatic conditions’ in ice covered areas for most of the year needs regulations to prevent ‘irreversible disturbance of the ecological balance.’ These regulations shall be based on the best scientific evidence that is available. 

3.3 Arctic Energy Challenges

In the chapter ‘Miljø, ressurser og transport i Arktis - Petroleumsforekomster’ (‘Environment, Resources and Transport in the Arctic - Petroleum findings’) in the book ‘Arktiske utfordringer’ (‘Arctic Challenges’) (2012) by Geir Hønneland the author states how according to United States Geological Survey it is estimated that more than 20 percent of the world’s undiscovered petroleum resources can be located in the Arctic, and how 30 percent of these are estimated to be gas resources, and 13 percent undiscovered oil. The main component of these resources is assumed to be located offshore on the continental shelf, that is in waters with a depth that is less than 500 meters. The majority of these resources are again estimated to be on the Russian side of the borders, however as the source is aware of, these are only estimates. The estimates do not state what is technically or economically possible to produce. The scope of the undiscovered oil in the Arctic is estimated to not be large enough to alter the world’s existing supply pattern in any significant way, whereas the gas resources would be able to affect the supply pattern in the future. 1/4 of the oil equivalents, both petroleum resources combined, is set to be in Alaska and the Eastern Barents Sea, in the area where Norway has opened up for oil exploration. More than 70 percent of the estimated oil resources are calculated to be located in five main areas: Alaska, the Amerasia-pool, East-Greenland, the Eastern Barents Sea and West-Greenland/North-East-Canada (USGS 2008). 

3.4 An Oil Spill Scenario in the South-East Barents Sea

The NUPI (Norwegian Institute of International Affairs) report ‘Miljøpersepsjoner i Nordvest-Russland - Problemoppfatninger knyttet til petroleumsutbygging i Barentshavet’ (‘Environmental Perceptions in North-West Russia - Problem perceptions regarding the petroleum development in the Barents Sea’) views the differences between Norway and Russia when it comes to handling the environmental concern in the Barents Sea. The danger of oil spills is a consistent theme, and the different institutes in Russia working on how to solve this has not landed on a unison yet, partly because that there is no one today that knows the long term effect of the chemicals that are being used. Several of the methods used by Russian scientific oil institutes to avoid having physical oil spills located on the surface involves letting the oil sink to the bottom, even though this has devastating effects on the sea bottom. One of two environmental organizations consulted in Nenets, Russia, who also worked on the indigenous interests, criticized the Russian attitude which they interpreted to be as the ones who are most affected, the indigenous, are the same ones that will be least consulted. 

Norwegian Arctic oil history

3.0 Literature Review

The following chapter presents the literature of this dissertation and the background of the study. 

3.1 Norwegian Arctic oil history

‘Den nye nordområdepolitikken’ (‘The New North Area Policy’) (2008) by Geir Hønneland and Leif Christian Jensen discuss how there has been a shift in Norwegian policymaking regarding the High North. The shift started when Jonas Gahr Støre became the new foreign minister in 2005. The new topics on the agenda for the High North were now distribution of resources and security politics – topics that had not been discussed since The Cold War. Oil drilling in the High North had hardly been mentioned before this, and the divide between Norwegian and Russian fishing quotas had found its common middle ground in the 1970s. The book draws its main focus to the NOU’s (Norges offentlige utredninger) (Official Norwegian Reports) regarding the Northern areas of Norway after 2003 when the new development started. This includes the documents: 

  • ‘Mot nord!’ (‘Towards North!’) (2003) 
  • ‘Muligheter og utfordringer i nord’ (‘Possibilities and challenges in the North’) (2005) 
  • ‘Barents 2020’ (2006) 
  • ‘Regjeringens nordområdestrategi’ (‘The governments North area strategy’) (2006)

‘Regjeringens nordområdestrategi’ (‘The government’s North area strategy’) dedicates chapters to indigenous questions, environmental considerations and petroleum. Furthermore there are discussions around the process of the opening of the first petroleum activity in the Barents Sea on the ‘Snøhvit’-project. When it was suggested that there should be petroleum free zones within this area, the ministry for oil and energy was concerned this might cause unnecessary conflict focus, and the worry was that if these areas first were protected, then this could be the first step to more petroleum free zones in the Barents Sea. With this approach to petroleum exploration, that protected areas are sometimes necessary to preserve the ecosystem, the sitting government (Bondevik 2) showed respect towards the Rio-conference in 1992 on biological diversity. At the Johannesburg-conference ten years later it was encouraged that this way of approaching marine resources was recommended. The state report from the same government in the spring of 2002 ‘Rent og rikt hav’ (‘Clean and rich ocean’) states that Norway wants to count on holistic management plans for all the Norwegian sea areas, and with an expressive wish to start with the Barents Sea. This was justified because there is still a relatively small amount of human interference in this area, and it is also one of the richest areas for fish, sea birds and sea mammals in the world. The main aspects of the ecosystem has been researched, but there is still a low level of agreed knowledge on how pollution affects the species and the ecosystem. The report also states how the low temperatures and drifting ice give the oil and chemicals released in the water a long degradation. This combined with the occasionally high waves that can occur during the dark season gives an overall image of oil spill reduction being severely limited. Combined with the poorer infrastructure of North-Troms and Finnmark compared to the rest of the country this contributes even further in weakening level of preparedness for a potential oil spill. 

The State Report ‘Helhetlig forvaltning av det marine miljø i Barentshavet og havområdene utenfor Lofoten’ (2005-2006) (‘Wholesome management of the marine environment in the Barents Sea and the sea areas around Lofoten’) explains how the Barents Sea is a shallow ocean with an average depth of 230 meters, and the most shallow areas are located in the South-East. Even thought the Barents Sea surface areas only measure 7% of the Arctic Ocean areas, the main bulk of the Arctic marine resources is located in this area. This is caused due to the fact that a considerable amount of the North-East-Atlantic fish resources live parts or their entire life cycle in the Barents Sea. 

The book looks backwards and reviews the 1990s as a decade where the oil industries interest for the Arctic ocean areas were low, even thought they in the 1980s had experienced a promising optimism surrounding these areas. However, ten years later the search did not show results, and in 2007 geologist Jan Inger Faleide expressed to the independent research website forskning.no how the Barents Sea was raised and lowered during the past ice ages, and how this caused the thickness of several kilometers of sediments to be scraped off. This gave the gas the room to expand and how this caused the reaction where the oil was outright pumped out of the reservoirs. Further, he points out that among the geologists it is said that the industry should have drilled for oil in these areas ten million years ago (this is however only one theory, which not all experts agree upon). 

To sum up, the book discusses the three discourses that have been dominant in Norway: The ‘protective’ discourse, the ‘energy appetite and new alliances’ discourse and the ‘drilling for the environment’ discourse. The ‘protective’ discourse states that petroleum activity in the Barents Sea will threaten the fragile Arctic environment and the renewable sea resources, and therefore demands that Norway refrains from it. An article from the financial newspaper Dagens Næringsliv on the 10th of April 2000 explains: The sea areas where it is currently being discussed to open up for large-scale oil delivery is in a fishing context among the most valuable in the world. The Barents Sea, with large populations of cod, shrimp, herring and capelin, is the ecological foundation that enables Norway to produce seafood for over 30 billions NOK annually. That this sea area has a documentable clean environment is the most important condition to why fishers, breeders and biotechnologist pictures a multiplication of todays value in the next 20-30 years. The fear is however that if 100.000 tons of crude oil is transported through the Barents Sea and along the Norwegian coast, it is only a question of time before a ship wreck or another serious accident with enormous oil spills will be the result. The ‘energy appetite and new alliances’  discourse refers to Norway’s relationship to Russia, and how Russia has already gotten a pre-start, and how Norway must not appear small and backwards-looking towards the wider world community. This discourse appeals to the fear that Norway will be a ‘pigeon among cranes’ and will end up in a ‘geopolitical cross road’ if Norway does not also ‘compete’ in the ‘race against the North’, that has already started. There is also the factor that the world will need more energy, and it is Norway’s obligation to provide this. The third discourse, ‘drilling for the environment’, draws on the previous prerequisite that the Russians have already started, but their equipment is old and outdated, whereas if Norway were to do the oil drilling, it would at least be done with the newest within the technology, and therefore it is Norway’s duty to lead the way to set the right environmental standard within oil drilling in the Barents Sea. 

On the study

2.5 Choosing a sample

The sample criteria for this study was that you had to be over 18 years old and had to identify yourself as Coastal Sámi and live in immediate closeness to the South-East Barents Sea. To be part of this study it was however not a requirement to have either in depth knowledge on how oil reacts in ice cover water, or other natural science related backgrounds. Their answers are therefor the sum of experiences and observations based on knowledge connected to their home environment. It can not be excluded that some informants may have additional knowledge on the environmental processes that could happen if an oil spill were to occur, but it was not a formal requirement. 

2.6 Conducting the case study

The case study was done in two sessions, before and after the main holiday in Norway. When I planned the interviews, I was hoping that after sending out invitations answers would easily come back in so high numbers that it was easier to travel North and interview Coastal Sámi one by one over a short period of time. This turned out to not be the case. It ended up being conducted in two parts, first two interviews before the main holiday, and then the seven other interviews were done through an online questionnaire after the main holiday. The questions were the same for both set of interviews.  

2.7 Methodological challenges

When contact was made through several links with participants willing to be part of the case study, very few were left, and as only two interviews were made before the main holiday, these were done via e-mail, as this was the preferred method of my informants. 

A few of the Coastal Sámi who responded reported that they were Coastal Sámi themselves, but they knew someone who was even better suited to answer, so they would pass the request onwards. A lot of these interviews never happened. Some informants reported that even though they personally agreed that the oil concern was a genuine threat towards their community, it was not on the public agenda in the news in Northern Norway anymore. One informant hinted that a reason as to why participants had been so hard to gather was a response to Norway’s history of assimilation policy with the Sámi population that officially through directives lasted up until 1965, and a large part of the Sámi population remembers this well. Whereas another informant said that ‘it was not that the Coastal Sámi were not there, it was just that they did not want to be found..’ In addition I came in contact with many reindeer Sámi and Sámi who did not live close enough to the sea, so their response was that they did not feel qualified to participate. 

After the main holiday I contacted the higher education institutions of the High North again, namely University of Tromsø, University of Nordland and Sámi University College and asked the lecturers who taught Sámi related subjects if they could pass on an online survey I had now made, as I was hoping for a larger number of participants to improve the validity of this study. After considering, University of Tromsø concluded that even though I was not one of their students my chosen field of writing ‘belonged’ to them, so they would help me pass the survey on. 

2.7.1 Reliability

As all the informants fulfilled the necessary criteria, and all the participants only spoke on behalf of themselves, and not as spokespersons for any organization they might represent, the reliability was deemed good. One informant who worked for the Sámi Parliament informed me how he had worked a great deal on issues surrounding oil exploration in the Barents Sea, but the informant made it clear that even though he had in depth knowledge on the topic, the answers came on behalf of being a member of the Coastal Sámi population. 

2.7.2 Validity

As this case study wanted a broad set of answers within the Coastal Sámi population, based merely on their belonging to the Coastal Sámi community and how they lived close to the South-East Barents Sea, it was concluded that the sample was valid for this purpose. 

2.7.3 Generalization 

Based on the answers from the in total 9 interviews that were conducted, some generalizations can be made: The only questions everyone answered the same on were question number 5 ‘Has anyone informed specifically about the risks of an oil spill for you who live close to the South-East Barents Sea?’ To this every participants answered ‘No’, even the two who were more on the positive side of oil exploration, and question number 9 ‘Are you familiar with the oil spill recovery situation of an oil spill where you live, and how long it would take from the oil spill until the emergency action was operative?’ where the answer was also ‘No’.

2.8 Treating the collected data

As interviews were starting to get back, I started to realize that even though my attempt at making the questions open-ended, many of the informants chose to answer fairly concisely. Simultaneously as I was corresponding to get more interview arrangements, I was working on the literature review that needed to have a proportionally large part of this dissertation, as it regards a fairly narrow topic in a country that is likely to be at least not entirely familiar to the examiners.


Answers from the Coastal Sámi part 2

5. Has anyone informed specifically about the risks of an oil spill for you who live close to the South-East Barents Sea?

This was the one of two questions where the answers were unanimously ‘No’  with the most elaborate being ‘No, I miss information about this. It is we who have to live with the consequences.’ This single question can possibly be the greatest finding of this study, as for any nation wishing to do activities in a territory known to be inhabited by an indigenous population, The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN DRIPS 2008) states how the ‘Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent’ should be applied. That information is not given directly to any of the 9 informants of this study can be explained with that information was given to the Sámi Parliament. However, what this dissertation argues is that it can not possibly be an informed consent at this stage, as

  1. There is no known way today on how to safely remove oil from ice covered waters. As the decision of regardless of this opening an Arctic area, the South-East Barents Sea, for oil recovery, an area that borders permanent ice, is therefore an uninformed decision, as the inhabitants cannot be given proper information on what might happen to their nature if an accident were to happen due to opening their territory to the oil sector. 
  2. The marine bottom of the South-East Barents Sea is currently being mapped as part of the impact assessment done on the area, and this process is not estimated to be finished before 2020 (Mareano 2007). The decision to open the area up for oil exploration was still made, even though the Sámi populations heavily depends on what the findings might say on how the marine life is changing in population size or behavioral patterns. 

As facts were missing in both cases, it can be argued that Norway breaks the international treaty they have signed in order to protect their indigenous population. 

6. What thoughts do you have around a coexistence between the fishing industry and the oil industry; is it realistic?

The range of these answers came from a concern on how the oil industry might take over what was already there of the fishing industry;‘It is not realistic as long as there is a race towards getting the oil up.’ and ‘If the oil industry continues to grow it is NOT realistic. One should count less on the oil industry and more on the fishing industry. Let all of us in Norway come closer to nature!’ to the optimistic for coexistence ‘One has to adapt to everyday life. Cooperation and dialogue is key.’ The more specific answers were on the topic of seismic activity. One informant answered ‘The sound waves of seismic shooting when they search for oil scare the fish in a radius up to 34 kilometers from the area it is shooting in. And an oil spill would be a catastrophe. In the North there is a lot of bad weather, this can not possibly end well.’ On the same matter another informant replied ‘It is very problematic in my view. Not only does the frequent seismic shooting disturb the fish, but an eventual oil spill would be catastrophic.’  Both these concerns highlights how both the safe practice of doing oil searching activities may cause harm, but also how the overhanging threat of an oil spill would be severely detrimental for the fishing industry. 

7. If repeated oil spills were to occur in your close environment, would this be a reason to move?

These answers showed a variety from the ones who did not see moving as a possibility; ‘No. My home is way to close to my heart. Besides, someone has to stay here and protest against the oil industry.’ and ‘Not for me and my family, but for many others. And if it was not a reason to move it would still reduce the life quality of many.’ to the ones willing ‘Of course, one does not wish to live in an environment that is contaminated.’ and ‘Yes, it would reduce the wellbeing of living in my close environment.’ but the answer that highlighted this debate the most was the informant who raised the very relevant question‘Yes, but where can one move? It is one thing to think that you can just move if the nature surrounding you is destroyed, but if all the world’s population gets their areas destroyed of modern non-renewable and capitalist driven industry were to move it would be total chaos.’  As more people have become refugees due to the changing climate than there currently are refugees caused by war (Regjeringen 2013), these are alarming prospects that the informant raise. 

8. Do you experience a great awareness in your local community around what an oil spill would mean for your close environment?

The tendencies from the answers points towards that the environmental concerns are known but not discussed in the public debates on oil in the Barents Sea. ‘Yes, but this does not show in the public debate. It is only characterized by the hope of growth and prosperity.’ and ‘There exists a conscience about the consequences. But one does not talk about it.’ There was also one informant who replied that there was a lack of awareness, and instead of this there were hopes that the oil industry might bring more workplaces than what already exists; ‘No, people think that there will be more workplaces. They don’t think about the ones who are likely to lose their workplaces, such as the fishers.’ 

9. Are you familiar with the oil spill recovery situation of an oil spill where you live, and how long it would take from the oil spill until the emergency action was operative?

This was the other question where the unanimous answer was ‘No’, with one informant adding the concern on the technology available today: ‘No, I have no knowledge on this. Except that it works very poorly today.’

10. Have you participated politically in the relation to the oil drilling in the South-East Barents Sea? 

This question caused many answers along the line of ‘In no way.’ except for two of the informants who replied ‘I am a local politician. But if there are plans of a demonstration towards the oil industry, of course I will join.’ and ‘I stood on a list under the last Sámi Parliament election. I am a member of ‘Nature and Youth’(Environmentalist organization). That only 2 out of 9 informants had participated politically against oil drilling may have a variety of factors, one of them being, based on the answers in question number 8 on awareness, that this is currently not a political matter. 

11. In your opinion, what would you say weighs more heavily in your local community: The ecosystem of the ocean, or a possible financial growth due to the oil recovery? 

The majority of the informants answered that a healthy ecosystem in the ocean is the main factor in their close environment‘To preserve the ecosystem intact is the most important factor.’, however informants were worried that this was not always the case for the political decisions‘The ecosystem in the ocean should weigh the heaviest. The fish would give work to many more. Sadly it doesn’t due to political reasons, or political weakness.’ or the majority of the inhabitants ‘For me it is the ecosystem, but I think for the majority it will be financial growth.’ An important question was raised when one informant asked ‘The ecosystem in the ocean. As long as the fish exist we will always have food. Isn’t our economy good enough?’  Is the economic need for oil of greater value than securing the fishery industry, an industry which in 2010 contributed with 46,5 billions NOK (Sintef 2010) to Norway’s GDP?

12. Are you familiar with the problems connected to gathering oil in ice covered waters, as next to the Ice Edge and the Polar Front? 

The majority answered negatively ‘No.’  to this question except for one informant who was familiar with the problematic nature of oil near the Ice Edge and Polar Front‘Yes, it is unique and vulnerable nature and animal life there. Sea scientists and environmental experts warn against it.’Another informant contributed by stating what is the general consensus on oil recovery in ice covered waters ‘Yes. I am familiar with it and know that it is near impossible.’

13. Is there anything else about oil recovery in the South-East Barents Sea that engages you that has not been raise in the earlier questions?

One informant had a valuable point on food security that had not been directly addressed in the previous questions‘I fish all year around to collect food. If the fishing had been equally as good as it was 20 years ago, I would have made fishing my life stock. There are few who eats more fish than me. I never buy fish or meat in the store. The most important fish species in quantity here is the cod. It is mostly fjord and coastal cod, but also arctic cod. If a bigger oil spill were to occur an entire year of arctic cod could be extinct. That affects my opportunity to collect food. As of today the consequences would not be that big, but in 10-20 years time, when I am sure that the food prices will have risen, then a decrease in the cod population will have a major impact for me. The time perspective for the food security needs to be longer than the foreseeable future , and this informant addressed how an oil spill could possibly make an entire year of arctic cod become extinct due to pollution. 

The exiting one with responses from the Coastal Sámi

2.4 Interviews

1. What do the coast and the ocean mean for you and your livelihood?

‘The ocean means I always have access to food. My ancestors were poor, but people along the shore have never been starving, because they could go out at sea and fish.’ 

The aspect this informant highlights draws attention to how the people of the North do not only eat fish as a supplement to their diet, but how fishing both traditionally and today are the main source of food. Any insecurities around the food security are therefore of a great concern to the inhabitants with direct access to the Barents Sea. 

‘The coast means incredibly much to me as a Costal Sámi. The ocean and the coast are the very foundation for Sea Sámi Culture. Without the coast and the ocean it is hard for the traditions to have a continuity.’ When discussing land and sea resources when indigenous communities are involved it is not the same question as discussing relocations for non-indigenous, although it is of course problematic for anyone who would needed to be relocated due to changes happening in their home environment. For the Coastal Sámi in particular, the closeness to the sea is one of the last remaining aspects of their cultural identity, as one informant informed me the Norwegian assimilation process were particularly hard on the Coastal Sámi.  

‘Without the ocean, where should we get fish? If I live away from the ocean too long, I miss it. There is something missing. I did not understand this when I was a child, when my mum said she could not live away from the ocean, but when I moved to the inland for a year I understood it.’ Both the food aspect and the identity dependency on the ocean are equally strong components for this informant in the relationship to the ocean. 

‘I grew up by a fjord, and have learned how to walk there and use the resources that exist in the ocean. Fishing is important both as food gathering and recreation. And I have a strong place belonging to the fjord. Here have my ancestors lived, and it feels right that me and my children use these same areas and to harvest what the ocean gives.’ This bond to their nature and the generation aspect of why this place in particular is important is one of the ways indigenous communities as the Coastal Sámi explains how they are un-separable from their nature, because who they are is so intertwined with who their ancestors were due to where they lived and were shaped by nature. 

‘It is a very important part of my everyday and my life.’ Simply put but very efficiently this quotation says how the ocean is something that plays a significant part both on an everyday scale, but also for the more long term perspective.  

‘For the immediate livelihood the coast and the ocean not so much. But I have grandparents who subsist of what the ocean have to offer, with both sea salmon fishing, cod fishing etc. But, for one who is raised by the coast, I need the ocean on another level. I can not imagine living a place where I do not have immediate access to the coast and ocean.’  This informant does not make her livelihood of the ocean, but is equally tied to it. This ‘another level’ she speaks of is an indicator to what the ocean has to say for how her identity is so closely linked to the ocean that living another place is not thinkable. 

2. Have you been following the debate regarding Norwegian oil exploration in the Arctic (recently around ‘Bjørnøya’=Bear Island)

The answers ranged from five ‘Yes’ to four ‘No’, with the most elaborative answers explained ‘That I have. That they even plan a new drilling in the Arctic is frightening.’  This remark shows the concern of the informant, and implies an awareness of why Arctic oil drilling is problematic. Another concerned positive answer was ‘Yes, that debate I have been following. Not only because I work with Sámi issues and land and resource rights, but also because I am concerned about protecting a healthy coastal line.’  This indicates that the informant thinks oil exploration could interfere with a healthy coastal line. 

3. What is your view on oil recovery in the South-East Barents Sea?

This informants show a precautionary attitude towards oil recovery due to the protection on the known values as a clean environment and the fish.‘I am very skeptical of oil recovery in the Barents Sea. I fear that the environmental consequences can be large. Is there a hurry to get the oil up? After all, it does not disappear. Oil is a one time resource. The cod is renewable.’ 

Both these two informants seem to have the climate change impacts in mind when considering if oil recovery in the Barents Sea is necessary, as burning of fossil fuels is a documented source of contributing to global heating (Nasa). ’One has to try to develop another alternative to oil and gas. There is no future for our planet if the recovery of all these fossil fuels continues.’ and ‘It should be completely unacceptable both because of the danger for the nature and because oil and gas production ought to diminish, not increase.’

‘I do not see why we should take the risk. The consequences of an oil spill would be catastrophic for the fragile environment of the North. I think we should save the none renewable resources to a time when we maybe really need them, and rather count on finding more and better renewable ways of getting energy.’ The precaution this informant advocates goes along the line of what environmental agencies of the Arctic recommends, as WWF’s recommendations on Arctic oil and gas is to leave it be (WWF). 

Another perspective is that of bringing the financial growth Norway’s oil history has undeniably brought the country more localized to the Northern part of the county where this oil would be extracted: ‘The oil industry has good ripple effects on the business and the infrastructure.’

One informant chose to not take a definite stand on whether they were for or against, but showed a concern for how the oil recovery might interfere with this highly adapted nature. ‘I can’t say I am either pro or against. But, I have great concerns about a possible oil recovery in such a climate exposed area.’  The term ‘climate exposed’ refers to how the Arctic, although hostile with its extremely low temperatures is actually a highly fragile environment and one of the places on Earth that most easily would be affected by human interference (GRID 2014).

‘I am against oil recovery in the Barents Sea for as long time as the relationship to the Sámi rights and Sámi interest in the area is not clarified.’ This statement stands for the protection of Sámi rights, as discussions on how to distribute areas where Coastal Sámi people have traditionally lived has not yet begun. 

4. What consequences would an oil spill have for you and your close environment?

This informant describes how her everyday activities connected with food gathering, especially from the sea, will suffer if oil was spilt in her close environment. ‘It would have great consequences. We use nearly all the animals in the sea and along the coast. We fish all year around and in the spring we go out on the islands and collect seagull eggs. In the late summer we pick all sorts of berries on the islands. An oil spill would have caused a break in our living traditions.’

The holistic approach to oil spills can be seen in the two following answers; ‘It would have enormous consequences for the areas I stay in for most of the year. For the animal and birdlife, for the fish, for the humans and the entire ecosystem. These are frightening perspectives.’  and ‘It would be catastrophic for those who live of the fish and the animal life.’ Both answers stand as a testimony to the uncertainty that surrounds Arctic oil spills, as neither the industry or environmental agencies can produce a definite answer as of today on how to safely remove oil from ice covered waters (WWF Canada 2011). 

This answer is more concrete and describes what the informant think will happen when the oil meets the shore. ‘An oil spill that causes the oil to come right onto the shore will bring an ecological catastrophe, and ruin the close environment for the unforeseeable future.’ 

The case study and collection of data

2.2 Case study research and collection of data

As this dissertation has been written from Southern Norway, and the Coastal Sámi who would be affected by a potential oil spill in the Barents Sea live in the far Northern Norway it was necessary to contact the Coastal Sámi in a way that would reach out to as many potential informants that would be affected. Primarily I started out writing to the academic and research institutions working on Sámi related fields to learn where I could find potential informants. The first round included Centre for Sámi Studies at the University of Tromsø, Ministry for Labour and Social Inclusion as they work with integrating the Sámi population, Pitesami Centre, Research Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences as they had a working group on Sámi, University of Lapland, University of Nordland and University of Tromsø. This was done in the middle of May and the responses I got lead me to contact all the municipalities in Northern Norway, which is where the Coastal Sámi population that will be affected lives. This was done in order to ask whether they could pass on information on potential Coastal Sámi inhabitants in their municipality that could be interested in participating in this study. However in Norway there is a concept called ‘fellesferien’ (the joint holiday) which is roughly 3-4 weeks, give or take, where the majority of Norway takes their main bulk of the summer holiday, and by the time I had received a few positive candidates to be interviewed, the interviews needed to happen on the other side of the joint holiday. Meanwhile I contacted Árran Lule Sámi Center, Aja Sámi Center, Isak Saba-Center, Sámi Language and Culture Center in Porsanger, Sámi Student Association in Tromsø, Varanger Sámi Museum, The Sámi Council and a few contacts I had been tipped of that were Coastal Sámi within The Sámi Parliament. This did not immediately give results either. I was advised by a contact in University of Nordland to contact the Sámis interest organizations, so I contacted the 24 different locally founded groups of Norske Samers Riksforbund (Norwegian Sámis Nation Association), and Bivdi, a Coastal Sámi interest organization for Coastal Sámi fishers, but responses were scarce. 

I then contacted all the municipalities again after the joint holiday, and rewrote to the education institutions University of Tromsø, University of Nordland and Sámi University College and asked the professors who taught Sámi related subjects if they would pass on a survey to their students who were Coastal Sámi. Then I contacted the 24 largest newspapers in Northern Norway and asked if they would put in a notification in their newspapers where I asked for participants for the study. 

Then the University of Tromsø, who had responded the second time I contacted them after the joint holiday that they could not pass on a survey to their students as I was not one of their students, re-decided as ‘even though I was not one of their students, I was working with a field belonging to University of Tromsø’ and soon after this was published I started receiving interested informants. 

2.3 Questionnaire 

This is the translated questionnaire sent out on a google docs sheet to my informants. The original questionnaire can be found in the appendix. 

Consequences for the Coastal Sámi of an Arctic oil spill in the South-East Barents Sea

This is a questionnaire in the occasion of my master that is to be submitted on the 30th of September. Therefore I would greatly appreciate all the answers I can receive, ideally as quickly as possible. Everyone above the age of 18 years old who identifies themselves as a Coastal Sámi/ Sea Sámi (just two Norwegian names meaning ‘Coastal Sámi’, which is the preferred name in this dissertation) is welcome to participate, as this is a research field I wish to contribute to and where there exists a need for more complementary information on how Coastal Sámi are affected by the oil industry. On beforehand the warmest thanks for participating! 

  1. What do the coast and the ocean mean for you and your livelihood? 
  2. Have you been following the debate regarding Norwegian oil exploration in the Arctic (recently around ‘Bjørnøya’=Bear Island) 
  3. What is your view on oil recovery in the South-East Barents Sea? 
  4. What consequences would an oil spill have for you and your close environment? 
  5. Has anyone informed specifically about the risks of an oil spill for you who live close to the South-East Barents Sea? 
  6. What thoughts do you have around a coexistence between the fishing industry and the oil industry; is it realistic? 
  7. If repeated oil spills were to occur in your close environment, would this be a reason to move? 
  8. Do you experience a great awareness in your local community around what an oil spill would mean for your close environment? 
  9. Are you familiar with the oil spill recovery situation of an oil spill where you live, and how long it would take from the oil spill until the emergency action was operative? 
  10. Have you participated politically in relation to the oil drilling in the South-East Barents Sea? 
  11. In your opinion, what would you say weighs more heavily in your local community: The ecosystem of the ocean, or a possible financial growth due to the oil recovery? 
  12. Are you familiar with the problems connected to gathering oil in ice covered waters, as next to the Ice Edge and the Polar Front? 
  13. Is there anything else about oil recovery in the South-East Barents Sea that engages you that has not been raise in the earlier questions?

New mini-series: Learn more about Arctic oil drilling and the Coastal Sámi!

As a new mini-series, I have decided to publish a blog post on one chapter from my master every day for the next 14 days or so (making it a bit like the Norwegian hit series SKAM). Arctic oil drilling is a highly relevant topic these days, and my hope for this mini series is to spread awareness of the current situation, and let more people join in on the conversation on Arctic oil drilling. Here we go: 

To what extent will there be consequences for the Coastal Sámi in the event of an Arctic oil spill in the South-East Barents Sea? — With a case study of Coastal Sámi inhabitants living in the northernmost municipalities of Norway


This dissertation provides a thorough response to the research question ‘what risk factors does the Coastal Sámi community face when considering an oil spill in the South-East Barents Sea?’ In addition to how the ocean is of significant cultural value to the Coastal Sámi for their sense of identity, it is also their primary food source. Oil activity in the South-East Barents Sea will pose a threat already under safe practice, as the seismic shooting the Norwegian oil industry use in order to locate oil wells has a negative effect on larva and fry. The sea bottom of the Barents Sea is currently being mapped, and the report is estimated to be finished in 2020, making it impossible to predict further consequences on the marine life before this time. Large scale oil spill recovery tests affirmed how techniques used in open waters to remove oil were not applicable, and how satellite monitoring system would not pick up oil spilt under ice with a density percentage over 40%. The case study confirmed that the risks of an oil spill had not been given to the informants. A plausible reason could be that information was given to the Sámi Parliament on behalf of the Sámi, but as there is no known knowledge on how to clean an Arctic spill, this withholding of information breaks with the Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent in The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which Norway has signed. Recommendations includes drawing up a treaty distributing areas in and around the sea between the Sámi population and the non-indigenous population of Norway, waiting until the sea bottom mapping is finished before oil licenses are being allocated and in order to achieve Norway’s climate emission targets leave the oil reservoirs unexplored. 


‘The Arctic is closer to our homes than we think.’

- David Attenborough


1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background of the study

The background for this masters dissertation is that the human created (Stern 2006) climate change is heating up the Arctic at a faster pace than any other place on the globe. This causes melting of the permanent ice, and with this the opening of an unexploited territory in regards of fossil energy sources. Norway owns oil concessions in the Barents Sea (see figure 1), and gas production has already started in the Southern areas of the Barents Sea in the ‘Snøhvit’ field 140 km North-West of Hammerfest. The concern of this dissertation is what the consequences for the indigenous population of Norway, the Sámi, would be if an oil spill in these recently opened areas were to occur. Norway found oil on the Norwegian shelf in 1969 (Regjeringen 2013) on the field named ‘Ekofisk’, whereas the Sámi, and in particular the Coastal Sámi population, have been inhabiting the same areas that are now being opened up to the petroleum industry for over 10.000 years (Porsanger Sameforening 2013). What is special with the South-East Barents Sea being opened for oil exploration, (and also the North Barents Sea that has been test-drilled for oil while this dissertation has been written), is that the South-East Barents Sea borders to the permanent ice, an area both indigenous and non-indigenous people of the North rely on for food security, as its existence is crucial for the complex and highly adapted biodiversity of the Arctic. Oil spill recovery systems do exist for open waters, but not for oil that has leaked under ice. Arctic drilling is a new phenomenon and tests on how to detect and clean up an oil spill sponsored by several leading oil companies have proven to be extremely challenging, if not impossible at this time(Sintef 2010). 

  Figure 1. Impact assessment area: The Norwegian Oil Directorate 

1.2 The main research question

In June 2013 the Norwegian government agreed to open the South-East areas of the Norwegian Barents Sea for oil exploration, in the hope that there will be oil reservoirs. This is a new direction in Norwegian policy making, because this is the first time an area close to the permanent ice has been opened up. The Sámi, and in particular the Coastal Sámi, are dependent on the nearby ocean and a functioning ecosystem for their continued survival as a people. The full consequences of an oil spill in Arctic waters are unknown, this dissertation will therefore assess risk factors based on current knowledge and seek out to give a full perspective of the environmental impacts for the Coastal Sámi population, and what acts of mitigation would be necessary in order to prevent potential damage done to their immediate nature.                                                  

1.3 Rationale

This dissertation will consider how an Arctic oil spill will affect the Coastal Sámi population because my thesis is that all the facts was not properly presented when the decision of opening the South-East Barents Sea for oil recovery was made, due to how there is little to no known facts on how to remove oil from ice covered waters(Sintef 2010). After reading through the official documents by the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy sent out on a hearing to the Sámi Parliament, these parts were not included and the process of opening the above named areas was heavily criticized for having happened too quickly for affected parts to protest. 

1.3.1 Scope

This dissertation will not consider the two following aspects of oil in the Barents Sea: 

1. A report done by SINTEF on how oil reacts in Arctic waters (Sintef 2010) suggest that it is probably from the increased shipping traffic through the North-East passage that an oil leakage will come from, and that these kinds of oil spills will be harder to control from for example a governmental point of view, because from an economical perspective with the melting poles, it is more lucrative to use the North-East passage and therefor the shipping will probably happen either way if oil drilling is not going to take place in the Arctic. The report stated that the usual way oil spills from tankers is noticed is by constant satellite photos, but the problem with the Arctic is that if the ice concentration is high then it is impossible to spot the spills, and this is when the oil can drift under the ice for months.

2. Many experts have pointed towards that oil exploration in the Arctic, and particularly in the Barents Sea, is not an economically good decision as it is highly expensive to start exploration in an area where there is currently no sufficient equipment to drill safely, nor a connection to the already existing transport system Norway transports its LNG on.

1.4 Aims

The aim of this masters dissertation is to highlight the indigenous perspective of the Coastal Sámi in the debate around oil activities in the High North of Norway. A common feature for indigenous populations is their dependence on the nature for their continuous survival as a people and the Coastal Sámi are not different. When interfering with the Coastal Sámi’s prospects of a livestock funded in the primary sector, the oil industry does not only put their main food source at risk, but also how they define themselves as a people. Their identity is so intertwined with where they live and how their food is gathered, that a clean shoreline and waters are a prerequisite for the Costal Sámi’s existence. This statement is based on results from the interviews that will be discussed in chapter 2 of this dissertation.

Suing the Norwegian State over constitutional violations

The past two years we have seen every previous heat record to date being broken. We know the reason why this is happening. The burning of fossile fuels as oil, coal and gas give us carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that escalates the global heating. This is causing the world we live in to be more unevenly distributed, where those who have done the least to contribute to the global heating are the ones suffering the most. 

In June 2016, the Norwegian government handed out permissions to drill for oil in the Barents Sea, through the 23rd licensing round. In total, 53 new search licences were distributed and Statoil announced that they would start the oil drilling already next summer. Not many months after, the Norwegian government handed out even more licences in the 24rd licence round. 

This does not make any sense due to two good reasons: 

  1. We have a Environmental paragraph in our constitution, paragraph 112, that states: ‘Everyone has the right to an environment that ensures the health, and to a nature where production capability and diversity is preserved. Natural resources should be allocated on the basis of a long-term and versatile consideration that safeguards this right also to the coming generations’ and ‘the States authorities shall implement measures to conduct these principles.’ 
  2. In Paris in December last year, Norway ratified, as one of the first countries, on the new climate agreement that states that we wish to hold the human created global heating to less than 1,5 degrees.

A new report from Oil Change International has also stated that if we are to reach these climate goals, we have to leave all the undiscovered oil in the ground. The report also states that the oil resources we already are drilling will contribute to a higher CO2 emission target than 2 degrees, if we are to burn the oil. This makes it pointless to drill for more new oil. 

Norway likes to think of itself as a green country, and the best in the class, but our actions speaks louder than words. 

Because of this is a number of environmental organisations now suing the Norwegian State for violations on our constitution. 

‘We think that the state has broken its responsibility for future generations by opening for large scale oil drilling. If we are to have a Earth to live on in the future, we need to take the climate changes seriously and leave the oil in the soil’ said Ingrid Skjoldvær, leader of Nature and Youth. 

‘At the same time as Erna Solberg, Norwegian Prime minister, signed the Paris agreement and promised big emission cuts, the Norwegian government opened for large scale oil drilling in the Barents Sea. We ask the court to make these licences void, because more oil will lead to higher emissions, not lower’, said Truls Gulowsen, leader of Greenpeace Norway. 

‘Norway seems determined on sabotaging the Paris-agreement even before it went into action’ wrote Nasa scientist James Hansen, in an open letter to Erna Solberg. 

With this lawsuit, the environmental organisations aim to focus on that environmental damages is not only a political problem. This regards the livelihoods of the humans that live now, but also the ones that will come after us. Given that we have a Constitution that states as clearly as the Norwegian environmental paragraph does, there are certain limits what the Norwegian government can do. The resources found in our nature are to be distributed with thoughts to a longterm and safe future. 

If you wish to follow the lawsuit, and add your name to show your support, you can follow this link: https://www.savethearctic.org/en/the-people-vs-arctic-oil/?utm_source=internal&utm_medium=post&utm_term=People%20vs%20Arctic%20Oil,arctic,action%20page,oil&utm_campaign=Polar&__surl__=IgOs9&__ots__=1476909143400&__step__=1

A small win for the Norwegian environmental movement!

This week has shown us how a united, climate educated and alert environmental movement managed to put a stop to the the Norwegian oil ministers wish of opening for oil licensing in vulnerable areas. In Norway, the 24th License round was recently opened up (on the 30th of August) making it possible for oil companies to nominate areas where they want to drill for oil. One of these areas that were on the new map was the Lofoten archipelago and previously unopened areas on the coast of Møre. The trouble with licensing out blocks in the Lofoten archipelago, in addition to how it contains: 

- The area is unique in a global context because the worlds last and largest cod tribe spawns here

- It contains the worlds largest cold water coral reef 

- 70% of the fish we fish in Norway has its key area in the Lofoten area

In addition to these figures, its also a part of the governmental coalitions agreement that these areas shall remain untouched in this governmental periode (ending in the late summer of 2017). When the two coalition parties (the Christian Democrats and the Liberals) that did not agree with this sneak opening joined forces with a united climate movement, then there could be no real argument from the oil pro remains of the government, and they had to backtrack their statement. The environmental movement used both social media to get the message across, in addition to the written press and TV news to inform the people of Norway what was happening and how outraged they were about this process. This is a massive win for Norway, as it shows how open democratic processes should work, and Norway has very open process so as a citizen it is easy to engage yourself and be part of the process. 

Thank you for reading.