Quick Facts

Arctic Territory
Nordland, Troms and Finnmark, Svalbard and Jan Mayen

Arctic Maritime Area
1,500,000 square kilometers

Arctic Population

Arctic Indigenous Peoples

Norway and the Arctic Region

Nearly half of Norway’s land mass is Arctic territory, consisting of the two counties Nordland and the combined county of Troms and Finnmark on the mainland, the Svalbard archipelago and the island of Jan Mayen. Norway’s Arctic territory is home to around 490,000 people – one tenth of the Norwegian population. The country’s Arctic maritime area is approximately 1,500,000 square kilometers, corresponding to the combined land area of France, Germany and Spain.

The Arctic archipelago of Svalbard is located halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. About half the land is ice-covered. The largest island of the archipelago is called Spitsbergen, and until 1925 this name was used for the whole archipelago. The administrative center of Longyearbyen and the other inhabited areas of the archipelago are located on this island. Svalbard’s main industries today are coal mining, tourism and research.

Norway houses the world’s northernmost university, the Arctic University of Norway, in Tromsø. It is also home to NORD university in Bodø and the FRAM High North Research Centre for Climate and the Environment, where 500 scientists from 20 different institutions are engaged in research in the fields of natural science, technology and social sciences.

Fishing and marine resources, in addition to livestock husbandry, has for centuries been the cornerstone of the economy in Northern Norway. Today’s economy is much more diversified. Today’s key industries include:

  • Fisheries and aquaculture: This remains the largest export-sector in Norwegian Arctic region. Nordland county is Norway’s third largest exporter of marine fisheries and aquaculture.
  • Tourism: Norway’s broad Arctic region attracts a growing number of tourists, who come to experience dramatic scenery and largely untouched wilderness.
  • Sustainable energy: Norway is Europe’s biggest producer of hydropower, and one of the country’s largest hydroelectric power station in terms of annual production is located in Meløy. Raggovidda wind farm located on the Barents Sea coast in Berlevåg municipality is one of the world’s most efficient producers of wind power.
  • Power: In Hammerfest, Equinor operates a processing plant for liquefied natural gas from the Snøhvit field in the Barents Sea.
  • Mining and transit: Narvik is an important port for the export of iron ore from Swedish mines. One of Svalbard’s main industries today also includes coal mining.

Indigenous Peoples

The Saami are an Indigenous people who live in Sápmi, an area that stretches across the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Estimates of the Saami population vary between 50,000 and 80,000, with the most concentrated settlements in North Norway. Since 1989, the Saami in Norway have had their own elected assembly – the Sámediggi – which acts as a consultative body for the Norwegian government authorities.

Norway in the Arctic Council

Norway held the country’s first Arctic Council chairmanship from 2007-2009. Throughout the chairmanship, Norway’s priorities included:

  • Integrated resource management in sectors including fisheries, mining, maritime transport, petroleum and economies
  • Climate change monitoring and assessment
  • Reviewing the structure of the Arctic Council to ensure effectiveness and efficiency
  • Monitoring the long-range transportation of pollution
  • Preventing pollution and reducing releases of hazardous substances
  • Protection of the marine environment
  • Conservation of biological diversity
  • Social, human health and economic development with due regard for the interests of Arctic Indigenous Peoples

In the third decade of Arctic cooperation, Norway is – in addition to dealing with pollution and climate change – turning its attention to adaptation. In May 2011, the member states signed the first legally binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council. The agreement establishes a binding framework for search and rescue cooperation between the member States of the Arctic Council.

Key accomplishments

Norway serves as the host country for the standing secretariat of the Council, located in Tromsø, which includes the Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat since 2016. The secretariat of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme is co-located with the Council.

Hilde Svartdal Lunde
Senior Arctic Official

Featured projects


Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) of the Central Arctic Ocean

Investigating the current state of the Central Arctic Ocean

Circumpolar Oil Spill Response Viability Analysis (COSRVA)

Investigating the potential of different oil spill response systems for the Arctic marine environment.
Red Knots. Photo: Morten Ekker

Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative (AMBI)

Improving the status and secure the long-term sustainability of declining Arctic breeding migratory bird populations.

Protection from Invasive Species

Setting priority actions that the Arctic Council and its partners are encouraged to take to protect the Arctic region from a significant threat: the adverse impacts of invasive alien species.

Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter

Reducing the negative impacts of marine litter, including microplastics, to the Arctic marine environment.

Arctic Ship Traffic Data - ASTD

Collecting and distributing accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information on shipping activities in the Arctic.
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Arctic Lessons Learned Arena

One-stop shop for Arctic incident reports to share experiences, contirbute to best practices and to mitigate future risks
Cod drying. Photo: iStock

Blue Bioeconomy in the Arctic Region

The sustainable and intelligent use of renewable aquatic natural resources, with a focus on improving utilization and creating higher-value products.

Indigenous Youth, Food Knowledge and Arctic Change (EALLU) II

Developing a sustainable and resilient reindeer husbandry in the Arctic in face of climate change and globalisation, working towards a vision of creating a better life for circumpolar reindeer herders...
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Could expedition cruise vessels be an oil spill response asset in the Arctic?

Prevention, Preparedness and Response for small communities

Working with small communities to improve their safety in case of an oil spill event.
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Marine Invasive Alien Species in Arctic Waters

Protecting the Arctic from the adverse impacts of invasive alien species
Boat in ice. Photo: iStock

Arctic Marine Risk Assessment

A common approach to marine risk assessment in the Arctic region.
Plastic litter on an Arctic coast. Photo: iStock/sodar99

Arctic Marine Microplastics and Litter

Development of a monitoring plan for microplastics and litter in Arctic waters.
Water sampling in the Arctic. Photo: Steve Hillebrand/CAFF

Freshwater Biodiversity Monitoring

Working with partners across the Arctic to harmonize and enhance long-term freshwater monitoring efforts.
Permafrost erosion in Alaska. Photo: USGS / M. Torre Jorgenson

Climate Issues: Cryosphere, meteorology, ecosystem impacts

Developing work on thresholds and extremes, Arctic/mid-latitude weather connections and performance of global models in the Arctic, with contributions from the meteorology community; and evaluating th...

Arctic Hydrogen Energy Applications and Demonstrations (AHEAD)

Design, construction and development of the year-round Snowflake International Arctic Station (IAS)

Circumpolar Local Environmental Observer Network (CLEO)

Our world is changing rapidly, and local observers can detect subtle changes in weather, landscapes and seascapes, and in plant and animal communities.
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Digitalization of the Linguistic and Cultural Heritage of Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic

Preserving and developing Indigenous languages, traditional knowledge and cultures of the Arctic Indigenous peoples including food heritage as a foundation for diversification of local economies and n...
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Arctic Demography Index

Case studies on demographic change and migration in the Arctic
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Interpretation of the Polar Code

Facilitating consistent interpretation of the Code.

Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON)

SAON's vision is a connected, collaborative, and comprehensive long-term pan-Arctic Observing System that serves societal needs.
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New Low Sulphur Fuels, Fate, and Behavior in Cold Water Conditions

Knowledge on New Low-Sulphur Fuels in the Arctic

Circumpolar Oil Spill Response Viability Analysis Phase II (COSRVA II)

Science-based decision-making in Arctic oil spill response contingency planning
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Fishing Practice & Gear Inventory

Enhancing Understanding of Abandoned Lost or otherwise Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG)

Recent news

Credit: Kystverket / Rune Bergstrøm

From Risk to Rescue

A collaborative project with the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators explored the potential role of cruise vessels as first responders in oil spill events
10 May 2021

25 years of peace and cooperation – Highlights from the Arctic Frontiers panel

On the occasion of the Arctic Council’s anniversary, the Arctic Frontiers 2021 virtual conference hosted a high-level dialogue on the Council’s track record of 25 years o...
19 Feb 2021

EPPR helps small communities prepare for oil spill risks with launch of educational video

The video creates awareness on impacts and risks of oil spills and challenges they may create in small communities
01 Dec 2020
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