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Home → January, 2014

Monthly Archives: January 2014 − News & Stories


Sval­bard envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion act updated

The Sval­bard envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion act (Sval­bard­mil­jøl­o­ven) regu­la­tes what can and what can’t be done in Spitsbergen’s natu­re. It is updated more or less regu­lar­ly to meet the latest needs. The latest update came into for­ce with the arri­val of 2014. The­re are no major chan­ges rele­vant for most visitors/tourists.

Chan­ges inclu­de:

• Longyearbyen’s coun­cil area has been enlar­ged to inclu­de Advent­fjord com­ple­te­ly. This means that this area is now admi­nis­tra­ted local­ly by the elec­ted muni­ci­pal admi­nis­tra­ti­on of Lon­gye­ar­by­en and not cen­tral­ly from Oslo through the appoin­ted Sys­sel­man­nen (gover­nor), as all other are­as of Spits­ber­gen which are not part of any coun­cil area of the sett­le­ments.
• Minor adjus­t­ments have been made in the regu­la­ti­ons for hun­ting. So far, young hun­ters had to be at least 16 years old. Now, it is enough to cele­bra­te one’s 16th bir­th­day in the calen­dar year in ques­ti­on. This will cer­tain­ly be very popu­lar in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, whe­re child­ren are intro­du­ced to hun­ting alrea­dy in the Kin­der­gar­ten.
• The use of mari­ne hover­craft, alrea­dy for­bid­den on land and fro­zen lakes and rivers, is now also ban­ned from the sea wit­hin one mile off shore. The use of such crafts has been mat­ter of con­tro­ver­si­al deba­te in Spits­ber­gen recent­ly. They have been used for rese­arch, inclu­ding expe­di­ti­ons far out into the Arc­tic Oce­an, and local­ly in Sveagru­va for Search and Res­cue (SAR) pre­pa­red­ness. Lar­ge wet are­as near Sveagru­va are neit­her acces­si­ble by boat nor by land vehi­cle, but SAR for­ces need to be able to reach the­se are­as in case of acci­dents. The­re is a small airstrip in Sveagru­va. The use of hover­craft remains pos­si­ble in case of emer­gen­ci­es, but cur­r­ent­ly not for the pur­po­se of prac­ti­ce. It is not unli­kely that SAR for­ces in Sveagru­va will get some more free­dom here to enab­le them to prac­ti­ce with hover­craft. Com­mer­cial use of hover­crafts, for examp­le wit­hin filming our tou­rism, has not been an issue so far and is not an opti­on any­mo­re from now on.
• The so-cal­led admi­nis­tra­ti­on area 10, whe­re visi­tors can move around without noti­fy­ing the Sys­sel­man­nen in advan­ce, has been enlar­ge around Ny Åle­sund, giving peop­le the­re more free­dom to move around also pri­va­te­ly. Most sci­en­tists in Ny Åle­sund don’t stay long enough to get legal sta­tus as resi­dents, so they are as restric­ted as any other tou­rist for their pri­va­te trips. The area they can access without noti­fy­ing the Sys­sel­man­nen now also inclu­des the famous moun­tains Tre Kro­ner and a lar­ger part of For­landsund.

Advent­fjord seen from Suk­ker­top­pen near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. This area is now under local admi­nis­tra­ti­on.

Adventfjord

Source: Nor­we­gi­sches Kli­ma und Umwelt­mi­nis­te­ri­um, Pres­se­mit­tei­lung

Bar­ents­burg: coal mine re-opens after acci­dents in 2013

Coal pro­duc­tion can now start to con­ti­nue in the Rus­si­an mine in Bar­ents­burg. In 2013, workers were kil­led or inju­red in a seri­es of 3 serious acci­dents, after which Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties fined the Rus­si­an mining com­pa­ny with NOK 1.3 mil­li­on (about Euro 155,000) and clo­sed the mine tem­pora­ri­ly. In April 2013, one miner was kil­led in a block fall. In June, one was kil­led by fal­ling stones and in Sep­tem­ber, one lost a leg after ano­t­her acci­dent. The mine was sub­se­quent­ly clo­sed due to the gene­ral­ly low safe­ty level.

Sin­ce then, the Trust has fol­lo­wed Nor­we­gi­an advice to incre­a­se the safe­ty in the mine. Now, the Nor­we­gi­ans have got the impres­si­on that the situa­ti­on is impro­ving and have given per­mis­si­on to re-open the mine.

Coal pro­duc­tion was alrea­dy stop­ped in Bar­ents­burg in 2008 after a fire in the mine fore more than 2 years.

Bar­ents­burg: coal mine per­mit­ted to re-open after acci­dents in 2013.

Barentsburg

Source: Bar­ents­ob­ser­ver

Hopen: dis­co­ve­rer Mar­m­a­du­ke final­ly on the map

The litt­le island Hopen in sou­the­as­tern Sval­bard was, as far as known, dis­co­ve­r­ed in 1613 by the Eng­lish wha­ler Tho­mas Mar­m­a­du­ke. The island was sub­se­quent­ly named after his ship, the Hope­well, but the name of the dis­co­ve­rer did not make it on the map.

This scan­dal has caught the atten­ti­on of the crew of the Nor­we­gi­an wea­ther on Hopen, who deci­ded, in the year of the 400th anni­ver­s­a­ry of the dis­co­very, to file a request to the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te (NPI) to get some­thing done about it. It was the sta­ti­on cook who sent the app­li­ca­ti­on, and an appro­pria­te, as so far nameless, topo­gra­phic fea­ture was duly found: a litt­le gul­ly on the west side of the island, just a few hund­red metres from the sta­ti­on. The name giving com­mit­tee of the NPI agreed, and the gul­ly in ques­ti­on bears now offi­cial­ly the name Mar­m­a­du­kes­ka­ret (Mar­m­a­du­ke gul­ly).

The name giving com­mit­tee meets twice every year to deci­de offi­cial­ly about new place names which then appe­ar on the topo­gra­phic map. Basi­cal­ly, ever­y­bo­dy can file sug­ges­ti­ons. Names of living per­sons have, howe­ver, hard­ly any chan­ce to be accep­ted.

Gul­ly on the island Hopen. Not the one now named after Mar­m­a­du­ke, but that one is qui­te simi­lar. A bit smal­ler.

Hopen

Source: Hopen­me­teo

Arc­tic ali­ens: miti­ga­ting inva­si­ve spe­ci­es

The intro­duc­tion of new spe­ci­es to iso­la­ted eco­sys­tems with a low spe­ci­es diver­si­ty is always pro­ble­ma­tic and often cata­stro­phic, as anyo­ne know who is fol­lowing the deve­lo­p­ment on sub-ant­arc­tic islands such as South Geor­gia. In the Arc­tic, the pro­blem is at least a bit less dra­ma­tic than on sub-ant­arc­tic islands. The­re are several rea­sons: flo­ra and fau­na are alrea­dy to some degree adap­ted to plant-eating ani­mals and pre­d­a­tors, respec­tively. Second­ly, the natu­ral intro­duc­tion of new spe­ci­es by winds and cur­r­ents is much more com­mon in the Arc­tic, which is a main rea­son why it has much more ani­mal and plant spe­ci­es than remo­te islands in the deep south, whe­re lati­tu­di­nal winds and cur­r­ents iso­la­te them rather than con­nec­ting them to war­mer are­as.

But the pro­blem of inva­si­ve spe­ci­es is nevertheless to be taken very serious­ly also in the high north. The­re is alrea­dy a num­ber of ali­en spe­ci­es in Spits­ber­gen, which has a long histo­ry of explo­ra­ti­on, mining etc., during which plants and ani­mals were impor­ted with buil­ding mate­ri­als, ani­mal feed and other car­go. Spe­ci­es that might be espe­cial­ly pro­ble­ma­tic for the natu­ral diver­si­ty of spe­ci­es inclu­de cow pars­ley (Anthris­cus syl­ves­tris), which is thri­ving in Bar­ents­burg, and the sou­thern vole (Micro­tus levis). The fact that the sou­thern vole lives hap­pi­ly in pla­ces like Grum­ant­by­en and Cole­s­buk­ta, which have been aban­do­ned as mining sett­le­ments half a cen­tu­ry ago, indi­ca­tes that not much may be nee­ded in terms of adap­t­ati­on or cli­ma­te war­ming to make it spread over lar­ge are­as so far unaf­fec­ted.

Now the local admi­nis­tra­ti­on (Sys­sel­man­nen) has deci­ded to do some­thing about it. This has taken sur­pri­sin­gly long, con­si­de­ring what can be learnt from efforts to remo­ve inva­si­ve spe­ci­es from sub-ant­arc­tic islands.

The need to pre­vent new inva­si­ve spe­ci­es from com­ing to Spits­ber­gen is evi­dent. Car­go and bal­last water of ships will need atten­ti­on to achie­ve this. Also, stu­dies have shown that a sur­pri­sing amount of seeds and orga­nic mate­ri­al comes atta­ched to boots of flight pas­sen­gers arri­ving Lon­gye­ar­by­en. As a con­se­quence, the gover­nor will request future visi­tors to make sure they do not trans­port unwan­ted orga­nic mate­ri­als by acci­dent. This is alrea­dy com­mon prac­ti­ce in Ant­arc­ti­ca.

Attempts should also be made to remo­ve inva­si­ve spe­ci­es that are alrea­dy the­re. If this is not pos­si­ble, then their fur­ther disper­sal should be con­trol­led.

To start this pro­cess, the Sys­sel­man­nen has now publis­hed a report to descri­be the pro­blem and to iden­ti­fy appro­pria­te mea­su­res.

Simp­le, but effec­ti­ve: clean your boots!

Boot cleaning

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Arc­tic inva­dors: the Snow Crab in the Bar­ents Sea

The intro­duc­tion of new spe­ci­es to eco­sys­tems, be it by natu­ral migra­ti­on, with human influ­ence or hel­ped by cli­ma­te chan­ge, is hard­ly ever good news for any regi­on affec­ted. Too often, local­ly estab­lis­hed spe­ci­es suf­fer severely from their new neigh­bours. This is espe­cial­ly the case for rela­tively iso­la­ted eco­sys­tems, for examp­le in polar are­as or on remo­te islands.

The­re is a new spe­ci­es now estab­lis­hed in the Bar­ents Sea: the Snow Crab (Chio­noe­ce­tes opi­lio), which can be up to 90 cm lar­ge (inclu­ding the legs) and 2 kg hea­vy. She was wide-spread also in the past, with an occur­rence in the Bering Strait and fur­ther north as well as at the coasts of New­found­land. It is likely that it has migra­ted along the coast of Sibe­ria west­wards into the Bar­ents Sea. Initi­al­ly, it was found east of the Bar­ents Sea, near Nova­ya Zem­lya, but it has been repor­ted east of Spits­ber­gen sin­ce.

Expe­ri­ence in a simi­lar case, with King Crabs at the coast of North Nor­way, has shown that the mari­ne bot­tom fau­na is stron­gly deple­ted by their new hungry neigh­bours. It is likely that the Snow Crab has a simi­lar­ly healt­hy appe­ti­te as its rela­ti­ve, the King Crab. Addi­tio­nal­ly, it may just be a ques­ti­on of time until the King Crab its­elf migra­tes fur­ther north to inha­bit the nort­hern Bar­ents Sea and Sval­bard waters.

The Snow Crab has been found east of Spits­ber­gen sin­ce the mid 1990s and is now about to beco­me a pre­cious tar­get spe­ci­es for the fishing indus­try.

Immi­grants to the Bar­ents Sea: Snow Crab (foto © Ter­je Engø).

Snow Crab, Barents Sea

Source: Kyst­ma­gasi­net

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