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Daily Archives: 16. January 2012 − News & Stories

East Sval­bard manage­ment plan: open let­ter from Thor Lar­sen

Thor Lar­sen is a well-known polar bear bio­lo­gist. He was rese­arch direc­tor at the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te and is now pro­fes­sor eme­ri­tus. With a lar­ge num­ber of expe­di­ti­ons over more than half a cen­tu­ry, he is one of the veterans of Nor­we­gi­an polar rese­arch.

Recent­ly, Thor Lar­sen has expres­sed sub­stan­ti­al cri­ti­cism about the latest pro­po­sal of a manage­ment plan for east Sval­bard, which includes lar­ge so-cal­led sci­en­ti­fic refe­rence are­as. It can be expec­ted that public access to the­se are­as will be signi­fi­cant­ly more dif­fi­cult, if not impos­si­ble. Lar­sen cri­ti­zi­ses that the plan is kept upright alt­hough seve­ral working groups of the Sys­sel­man­nen have con­cluded that con­flicts bet­ween tou­rism and sci­ence can not be iden­ti­fied at the time being and are not expec­ted in the future eit­her. The actu­al envi­ron­men­tal impact of orga­ni­zed tou­rism is descri­bed as mini­mal by the­se working groups. For exam­p­le, it was feared that tou­rist visits to wal­rus hau­lout sites might lead to dis­tur­ban­ce. Moni­to­ring with auto­ma­tic came­ras over seve­ral years has, howe­ver, not yiel­ded any evi­dence to sup­port this. Accor­ding to Lar­sen, remai­ning pro­blems such as local ero­si­on can be sol­ved with the imple­men­ta­ti­on of site-spe­ci­fic gui­de­lines whe­re­ver nee­ded. A need for clo­sing lar­ge are­as is not seen, neither from a sci­en­ti­fic nor from an envi­ron­men­tal per­spec­ti­ve, wri­tes Lar­sen, also poin­ting out that the are­as in ques­ti­on are all insi­de the natu­re reser­ves, which are alre­a­dy enjoy­ing strict pro­tec­tion. The cur­rent regu­la­ti­ons are well capa­ble of pro­tec­ting sci­en­ti­fic and envi­ron­men­tal needs, accor­ding to Lar­sen.

Lar­sen cri­ti­zi­ses that hig­her admi­nis­tra­ti­ve levels keep the pro­po­sal to reser­ve lar­ge are­as as “sci­en­ti­fic refe­rence are­as” upright despi­te of this obvious lack of data which might sup­port such a dra­stic step. He also points out that the sci­en­ti­fic qua­li­ty of the papers that sug­gest the pro­po­sal is not mee­ting any stan­dards. Lar­sen sup­po­ses that rele­vant insti­tu­ti­ons now insist on their pro­po­sal becau­se of a feared “loss of face” and reminds of a com­mon-sen­se rule for moun­tai­nee­ring that is well-known in Nor­way: it is never too late to turn around.

Thor Larsen’s com­ple­te let­ter was published last Fri­day in Sval­bard­pos­ten (02/2012) in Nor­we­gi­an. An Eng­lish trans­la­ti­on can be down­loa­ded here.

Nor­the­as­tern Nord­aus­t­land is most­ly very rocky. Nobo­dy real­ly knows why this area should beco­me an exclu­si­ve play­ground for “sci­ence rele­vant to admi­nis­tra­ti­on”.

East Svalbard management plan - Kapp Bruun


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