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Home* News and Stories → Norwegian coastguard and Sysselmannen flying low over walrus colony

Norwegian coastguard and Sysselmannen flying low over walrus colony

On June 24, a group of tourists and guides approached a walrus herd hauled out on Nordaustland, when a small plane appeared, flying repeatedly very low over the walrusses which started to show signs of panic. The plane, a Dornier 228, was flying for the Norwegian coastguard, who „controlled“ cruise ships and contacted them to gather information about the numbers of passengers and crew on board; information which the Sysselmannen has from the mandatory application process prior to all cruises.

Normally, it is the Sysselmannen who controls tourist traffic and not the coastguard. It is not known why, in this case, the coastguard took the job. A Sysselmannen representative was also on board the aircraft.

According to the Svalbard environmental act, all traffic has to be done in such a way to minimize disturbance of humans and animals. All aircraft have to keep a distance of 6000 feet from known walrus colonies. The actual distance in this incidence was a small fraction of 6000 feet.

According to the Sysselmannen, the required distance was possibly „forgotten“. The incident does not seem to have consequences for those involved beyond a gentle reminder of legal requirements.

Walrus colony, Nordaustland.

flying low over walrus colony: Walrusses, Nordaustland

Source: Svalbardposten (3812)

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