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Home* News and Stories → Sysselmannen removes garbage from Svalbard´s beaches

Sysselmannen removes garbage from Svalbard´s beaches

This year an amount of 101 cubic meters of garbage was collected on the Sysselmannen´s annual cleanup cruise to remote beaches in Svalbard. The Sysselmannen´s ship ‘Polarsyssel’ was operating for eight days, approaching three places at the west- and the north coast of the main island Spitsbergen and two places in the northwest of the island Nordaustlandet. 24 volunteers supported the Sysselmannen´s crew in cleaning the single coastlines from garbage that was washed ashore.

It is most of all plastic garbage of different kind and size from all over the world which floats on the ocean´s surface, sometimes for years, and finally finds its way to the coast. And the bigger part derives from the fishing industry: fishnets, fishnet floats, ropes and so on. For animals the garbage can turn into a lethal trap, in the water as well as ashore. Seabirds for example swallow small pieces of plastic which they are not able to digest. They finally die by the accumulation of plastic pieces in their stomachs. Birds and other animals get entangled in ropes and fishnets. On this year´s campaign the Sysselmannen´s crew found a reindeer skeleton completely wrapped in a fishnet and in 2014 a polar bear was trailing a huge fishnet with its ear. The net got stuck at an earmark placed by scientists (see also Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com news Again polar bear caught in fishing net from August 2014).

With 101 cubic meters there was more garbage collected than last year (88 cubic meters). Yet, the Sysselmannen´s cleanup cruise was not as successful as expected. In the beginning the work was two times disturbed by polar bears showing up and later bad weather prevented the approach to highly polluted beaches. Special thanks go to the local population with its willingness to support the campaign. More than 200 locals volunteered for the cleanup and finally 24 were chosen to accompany the Sysselmannen´s crew.

Generally, the Sysselmannen can only cover a very small part of Svalbard´s coasts with this annual campaign, as for example this year there were only five beaches cleaned. Therefore smaller private expedition cruise ships are a significant help in this case, as most of them constantly arrange similar cleanups with their passengers (see also Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com news The Ocean Cleanup: solution for the global plastic pollution problem from June 2014).

Fishnet washed ashore
© Christian Nicolai Bjørke


Source: Sysselmannen, Svalbardposten

last modification: 2015-10-30 · copyright: Rolf Stange