Alongside this there are military warning signs, old watch towers and WW2 war bunkers dotted around. I was lucky enough to get a tour around town with a long-time resident and office head of the Barents Institute, Svein Helge Orheim, including a trip to the Russian border. From a distance, lines drawn on the map look definite, contested perhaps, but solid. Up close, the trees on either side of the fence look the same and the border is, well, just a chicken wire fence. Surely things are a little bit more fuzzy than they look, with such an international town nearby (Kirkenes has roughly 10,000 residents from 62 nations)? Myself and my Russian companion wonder if people jump the fence often, and our guide looks puzzled. Why would they? Chicken wire fences can be watched, policed and militarized and carry far more meaning than they might appear. Either side has CCTV (I hope they saw me giving them a friendly wave at some point!) and have built a presence whether town, mine or power station -sovereignty is staked out here, physically.
However, these crabs (which are really big, weighing up to 10kg!) are not ‘native species’, but introduced by Stalin to Russian waters in the 1930s. The attempt to create a significant food source was largely unsuccessful at the time, but numbers have boomed and been drifting westwards since the 1990s. There is some debate as to whether their presence as relative mega-species in the area is negative to more local critters, and if fishing should be more vigorous rather than by quota agreements (this blog has more of the story). For me this is interesting as it connects with wider debates around how native / alien species are defined (do dates matter, nation-state borders, environmental change?), by whom and to what end, which is, really quite a lot to do with how we value socio-natural things and our relations to them. Indeed, some Norwegian colleagues tackle such issues in a paper related to lists of native/ alien plants#.
#Qvenild, M., Setten, G., Skår, M. (2014) ‘Politicising plants: dwelling and “alien invasiveness” in domestic gardens’, Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift - Norwegian Journal of Geography, 68(1). http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00291951.2013.870599#.VEDu4BbgVBk