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Home → February, 2011

Monthly Archives: February 2011 − News & Stories


Posi­ti­ve net­to balan­ce in 2009

The Nor­we­gi­an public bud­get for Spits­ber­gen was posi­ti­ve in 2009, for the first time in 33 years. Main­ly tax inco­me from major com­pa­nies have con­tri­bu­t­ed to the inco­me. The mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske is the lar­gest tax payer (278 mil­li­on Kro­ner), fol­lo­wed by the oil and gas platt­form ser­vice com­pa­ny Seadrill Nor­ge (92 mil­lio­nen Kro­ner). In 2009, the net­to trans­fer was 33 mil­li­on Kro­ner from Spits­ber­gen to Nor­way. In com­pa­ri­son: in 2007, Spits­ber­gen was sub­si­di­sed with 310 mil­li­on Kro­ner, the figu­re for 2008 is 347 mil­li­ons.

Hap­py to have some cash in the bank: Rein­de­er in Advent­da­len

Positive netto balance in 2009 - Adventdalen

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Envi­ron­men­tal impact of expe­di­ti­on crui­sing in Sval­bard

A new stu­dy has been publis­hed to assess the envi­ron­men­tal impact of expe­di­ti­on crui­se ships on the Sval­bard envi­ron­ment. The stu­dy has been made by Akva­plan-Niva, a rese­arch orga­ni­sa­ti­on and con­sul­tancy wit­hin mari­ne and freshwa­ter envi­ron­ment, and it was encou­ra­ged and sup­por­ted by AECO, an orga­ni­sa­ti­on that repres­ents the expe­di­ti­on crui­se ope­ra­tors in the regi­on. After obser­ving several smal­ler (70-100 pas­sen­gers) ships in the field, the aut­hors com­pi­led a detail­ed stu­dy con­cer­ning dif­fe­rent aspects of the ope­ra­ti­on. A sum­ma­ry inclu­des the fol­lowing points:

  • The envi­ron­men­tal awa­reness amongst ship crew, gui­des and pas­sen­gers is descri­bed as high.
  • Ope­ra­ti­on and acti­vi­ties are alrea­dy strict­ly con­trol­led by laws and self-impo­sed regu­la­ti­ons.
  • Emis­si­ons from smal­ler ship into air and water are “rela­tively low”.
  • Intro­duc­tion of new spe­ci­es in bal­last water, on the ship’s hull or atta­ched to clot­hing can poten­ti­al­ly be very dama­ging. The report sug­gests miti­ga­ti­on mea­su­res.
  • Fur­ther detail­ed stu­dies are nee­ded to assess the impact of repeated noi­se and pre­sence of groups on sea­b­irds and mari­ne mam­mals.
  • The lar­gest immedia­te thre­at to the envi­ron­ment is a major oil spill. Risk ana­ly­sis shows that the likeli­hood of such an event, cau­sed by an expe­di­ti­on crui­se ship, is “rela­tively low”: likely once in 300 years, expec­ted reduc­tion to once in 700 years wit­hin a few years once bet­ter charts and tech­no­lo­gy are avail­ab­le. It is con­si­de­red posi­ti­ve that rele­vant ships all use mari­ne die­sel (MDO/MGO) exclu­si­ve­ly, which is gene­ral­ly assu­med to be far less devas­ta­ting in case of spills com­pa­red to hea­vy oil, which remains far lon­ger in the envi­ron­ment. Nevertheless, poten­ti­al dama­ge of oil spill can be very serious, inclu­ding loss of a bree­ding sea­son and adult birds of local sea­b­ird colo­nies.
  • Actu­al num­bers do not reflect the incre­a­se of tou­rism that is often used as argu­ment for pro­po­sed fur­ther restric­tions: the num­bers of per­sons who went ashore, as well as the num­ber of visi­ted sites, has remai­ned lar­ge­ly sta­ble sin­ce 2004/05. Lar­ge over­sea crui­se ships have expe­ri­en­ced rela­tively strong growth, but the­se ships visit main­ly the sett­le­ment and Grav­ne­set in Mag­da­le­n­efjord, but hard­ly land pas­sen­gers else­whe­re. The acti­ve ban on hea­vy oil in all pro­tec­ted are­as and the end of tem­pora­ry regu­la­ti­ons (allowing hea­vy oil on shor­test safe rou­tes to sett­le­ments and into Mag­da­le­n­efjord until 2014) is expec­ted to redu­ce the num­ber of lar­ge crui­se ships drasti­cal­ly.

Polar Star was one of the ships obser­ved by Akva­plan-Niva

Environmental impact of expedition cruising in Svalbard - Polar Star

Source: Sval­bard Sci­ence Forum, inclu­ding the report by Akva­plan Niva

Jason Roberts “expel­led”

A let­ter of the Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ty for for­eig­ners to Jason Roberts, Aus­tra­li­an citi­zen living in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, has crea­ted con­fu­si­on. Jason runs a Lon­gye­ar­by­en-based com­pa­ny assis­ting major film pro­duc­tions.

In 2009, Jason tur­ned his com­pa­ny into a share­hol­der com­pa­ny, for which other regu­la­ti­ons app­ly. The unfo­re­se­en con­se­quence was that Jasons rou­ti­ne app­li­ca­ti­on for for a work per­mit in Nor­way was tur­ned down. Jason needs such a per­mit only for occa­sio­nal work in Nor­way, but not in Sval­bard. Nevertheless, the for­eig­ners aut­ho­ri­ty infor­med Roberts that he has to “lea­ve Nor­way vol­un­ta­ri­ly” and con­ta­ct the Sys­sel­man­nen to dis­cuss fur­ther details. In the Sys­sel­man­nen, though, it was quick­ly clear that the let­ter had to be wrong. As all citi­zens of Spits­ber­gen trea­ty signa­to­ry coun­tries, Roberts has auto­ma­ti­cal­ly equal and unli­mi­ted rights to live and work in Sval­bard without any app­li­ca­ti­ons or per­mits. The for­eig­ner aut­ho­ri­ty said the let­ter was “some­what mis­lea­ding”. Roberts hims­elf made rather clear that he was not amu­sed.

Locked out …?

Jason Roberts expelled

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Polar bear to Japan?

The Japa­ne­se zoo Nihon­dai­ra has app­lied for a fema­le polar bear from Spits­ber­gen to be deli­ve­r­ed to Japan, for exhi­bi­ti­on tog­e­ther with a male bear that alrea­dy lives in the zoo, and to pro­du­ce off­spring.

The Sys­sel­man­nen in Lon­gyear­ben reac­ted reluc­tant­ly, say­ing a good rea­son could not be seen to catch a polar bear in Spits­ber­gen for deli­very to a Japa­ne­se zoo, and that the mat­ter is not rea­listic. Polar bears are com­ple­te­ly pro­tec­ted in Spits­ber­gen sin­ce 1973.

Likes to stay whe­re she is: polar bear in Sval­bard

Polar bear to Japan - Halvmaaneoya

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Dog kil­led by polar bear

A polar bear has atta­cked the dogs of the Polish rese­arch sta­ti­on in Horn­sund. One was kil­led, two more were inju­red. The bear had alrea­dy spent several days around the sta­ti­on and atta­cked the dogs. Even warning shots and rub­ber bul­lets had fai­led to sca­re the bear away.

The Sys­sel­man­nen has now tried to sca­re the bear away with the heli­co­p­ter. All sta­ti­on mem­bers were vac­ci­na­ted against rabies, as some had been in touch with the dogs that had been atta­cked.

Polar bear and dog, Kapp Lin­né (1999). The dog sur­vi­ved without inju­ries, but had to step asi­de and let the bear have its din­ner.

Polar Bear

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Spits­ber­gen: a tax oasis?

Becau­se of the regu­la­ti­ons of the Spits­ber­gen trea­ty, Spits­ber­gen is VAT-free zone and has a low com­pa­ny tax of 16 % rather than 28 %, as in main­land Nor­way. Con­se­quent­ly, Lon­gye­ar­by­en is an attrac­ti­ve place for com­pa­nies to sett­le down, but aut­ho­ri­ties are get­ting stric­ter on con­di­ti­ons to be met by com­pa­nies taxa­ting in Spits­ber­gen: a local office and manage­ment are nee­ded. The low tax regu­la­ti­on is for local com­pa­nies rather than tax refu­gees.

Two com­pa­nies have recent­ly been „expel­led“ from Spits­ber­gen, inclu­ding a daugh­ter of the oil rigg pro­vi­der Seadrill Nor­ge. With only one man in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, the com­pa­ny had an inco­me of about 700 mil­li­on Nor­we­gi­an Kro­ner (88 mil­li­on Euro), more than the lar­gest local employ­er Store Nor­ske (mining, 557 mil­li­on Kro­ner).

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Cli­ma­te chan­ge in and around Spits­ber­gen

Ever­y­bo­dy is tal­king about cli­ma­te chan­ge in the arc­tic, but what is actual­ly going on? The Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te, through its MOSJ-pro­ject (envi­ron­men­tal moni­to­ring of Sval­bard and Jan May­en), has gathe­red a ran­ge of data that make it qui­te clear that acce­le­ra­ting cli­ma­te chan­ge is a mea­sura­ble fact: the tem­pe­ra­tu­re has a ten­den­cy to incre­a­se during most of the 20th cen­tu­ry, with a mar­ked and still incre­a­sing acce­le­ra­ti­on in recent years. Pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on is fol­lowing, alt­hough the trend is less pro­noun­ced and clear here.

The sea ice has decre­a­sed by 35-40 % (area; refer­ring to maxi­mum dis­tri­bu­ti­on in April) from 1979 to 2009, and it is get­ting thin­ner: from 1.20 meters (1966) to 0,80 meters (2006) around Hopen island. Tem­pe­ra­tures at the top level of the per­ma­frost are by now incre­a­sing as fast as 1°C per deca­de, and gla­ciers around Ny Åle­sund have lost 15 meters of average thic­kness, also here with a stron­gly acce­le­ra­ting ten­den­cy in recent years.

Polar bear in open drift ice: sym­bol of cli­ma­te chan­ge

Climate change in and around Spitsbergen

Source: MOSJ (Mil­jøo­ver­vå­king på Sval­bard og Jan May­en), Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te

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