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Home* News and Stories → Eas­tern Sval­bard Natu­re Reser­ves: poten­ti­al clo­sure of lar­gest parts still on the agen­da

Eas­tern Sval­bard Natu­re Reser­ves: poten­ti­al clo­sure of lar­gest parts still on the agen­da

A pos­si­ble clo­sure of most parts of eas­tern Sval­bard has been dis­cus­sed on the­se pages on several occa­si­ons (see for examp­le June 2009). The Nor­we­gi­an Direc­to­ra­te for Natu­re admi­nis­tra­ti­on (Direk­to­ra­tet for natur­for­valt­ning, (DN)) had made a pro­po­sal to clo­se most of eas­tern Sval­bard for tou­rists. The Sys­sel­man­nen dis­agreed with the pro­po­sal, which would nor­mal­ly lead to major chan­ges or dis­car­ding. The pro­po­sal has, howe­ver, been for­war­ded to fur­ther bodies of the law-giving pro­cess without making any signi­fi­cant chan­ges, a very unusu­al step.

The main rea­son for the pro­po­sal was that the are­as should be kept as »untouched sci­en­ti­fic refe­rence are­as«. This rather vague rea­so­ning could not be exp­lai­ned any fur­ther, other than clai­ming a »pre­cau­tio­na­ry princip­le«. After this has met strong cri­ti­cism, natu­re pro­tec­tion was added.

The pro­po­sal is stron­gly cri­ti­cis­ed, inclu­ding:

  • Aims not well defi­ned and rea­sons not well exp­lai­ned. For examp­le, during a mee­ting in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in Octo­ber 2008, lea­ding sci­en­tists of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te said they did not see any princi­pal pro­blems with (con­trol­led) tou­rism in the are­as in ques­ti­on, con­si­de­ring both sci­en­ti­fic and envi­ron­men­tal aspects.
  • It is doub­ted that by exclu­ding tou­rists from the­se are­as, they can be kept as (or tur­ned into) »untouched« (refe­rence) are­as, as sci­en­ti­fic acti­vi­ties take place on a com­pa­ra­ble, pos­si­ble major, sca­le any­way: signi­fi­cant num­bers of sci­en­ti­fic and sup­port staff visit the are­as – inclu­ding its remo­test parts, which are hard­ly ever visi­ted by tou­rists regu­lar­ly, spen­ding much more time in the field, using lar­ge, sta­tio­na­ry camps (tou­rists sleep on ships) and using heli­co­p­ters for trans­port on a lar­ge sca­le (com­ple­te­ly ban­ned wit­hin tou­rism).
  • More pres­su­re on loca­ti­ons that remain acces­si­ble can be expec­ted to lead to several pro­blems, such as ero­si­on. Ano­t­her pro­blem is that fle­xi­bi­li­ty has, so far, been an inte­gral part of the safe­ty of pas­sen­ger lan­dings: if weather/sea con­di­ti­ons at a given site is not favor­able or a polar bear is seen near­by, it is – so far – com­mon to turn to ano­t­her area wit­hin reach. Should such alter­na­ti­ve sites not be avail­ab­le any­mo­re, it can be expec­ted that the pres­su­re to land at a given site will incre­a­se, even under unfa­vor­able con­di­ti­ons.
  • Part of the rea­so­ning is con­ti­nuous incre­a­se of tou­ris­tic traf­fic. The fact that crui­se ship tou­rism in the last 2 years actual­ly decre­a­sed is not con­si­de­red. The rea­son for the decre­a­se is not only the eco­no­mi­c­al cri­sis, but also the (las­ting) effects of new regu­la­ti­ons, such as a ban on hea­vy oil as ship fuel which effec­tively keeps some ships com­ple­te­ly away, and new safe­ty deman­ds, which will lead to ano­t­her cou­p­le of ships not retur­ning, inclu­ding some that have been ope­ra­ting in Sval­bard still in 2009.
  • Intrans­pa­rent dis­cus­sion pro­cess behind clo­sed doors, exclu­ding the public and tho­se invol­ved, igno­ring the Sys­sel­man­nen who is obvious­ly a major offi­cial aut­ho­ri­ty with con­si­derable know­ledge of the actu­al regio­nal situa­ti­on.

Des­pi­te being rejec­ted by the Sys­sel­man­nen, the pro­po­sal has been for­war­ded by DN to the hig­her Minis­try of the envi­ron­ment, whe­re decisi­ons on fur­ther steps have to be taken.

A result of the pro­cess could be a loss of public con­fi­dence into sci­ence and admi­nis­tra­ti­on, if »sci­ence« is (ab)used as an argu­ment by poli­ti­cal decisi­on makers without solid sci­en­ti­fic argu­men­ta­ti­ve basis, simi­lar to Japa­ne­se »sci­en­ti­fic« wha­ling.

Eas­tern Sval­bard: Pro­tec­ted are­as or exclu­si­ve play­ground for sci­en­tists?

Eastern Svalbard Nature Reserves: potential closure of largest parts still on the agenda

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten and other (inclu­ding ver­bal dis­cus­sions)

By the way, my new book is in print and it can now be orde­red 🙂 it is a pho­to book with the tit­le “Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (3): Die Bären­in­sel und Jan May­en”, with Ger­man text Click here for fur­ther details!



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last modification: 2014-07-01 · copyright: Rolf Stange