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Home → October, 2019

Monthly Archives: October 2019 − News & Stories

Fine for disturbance of polar bears in Tempelfjord

A man from Longyearbyen got a fine of 15,000.00 kroner (ca. 1500 Euro) because he disturbed polar bears during a private snow mobile tour in Tempelfjord in 10 March, 2018. He is said to have approached the bear with the snow mobile to a distance of 70 metres so the bears were visibly disturbed and moved away.

The incident was seen by witnesses who were out on tour on the neighbouring mountain Fjordnibba. The man was soon stopped by field police. A second man who was also involved could not be identified.

Because of the increase of snow mobile traffic, the Sysselmannen has announced to take strong action in such cases to make it clear beyond any doubt that the protection of the wildlife is of highest priority. In the current case, the fine has been imposed by the state advocate in north Norway, as revealed by the Sysselmannen.

The case caused some debate in social networks in Longyearbyen. Only a few days later the fjord ice in Tempelfjord, until then a popular destination both for locals and tourists, was closed for most motorised traffic.

Eisbären Tempelfjord

Polar bears in Tempelfjord (or elsewhere, for that matter): any disturbance is strictly forbidden.

According to the Spitsbergen environmental law (Svalbardmiljølov kapittel IV § 30) “it is forbidden to attract, to follow or seek out by any active act, polar bears so these could be disturbed or there may be danger for humans or polar bears (original text: Det er forbudt å lokke til seg, forfølge eller ved annen aktiv handling oppsøke isbjørn slik at den blir forstyrret eller det kan oppstå fare for mennesker eller isbjørn.)

Northguider: salvaging operation postponed until 2020

The salvaging operation of the shrimp trawler Northguider, that ran aground at Sparreneset in Hinlopenstretet in Svalbard in the end of December 2019, turned out to be more difficult than expected, as reported recently. Now it has been decided that further operations are postponed until 2020, according to a press release from Kystverket, the Norwegian coastal and maritime authority.

Due to the new information about the hull being more strongly damaged than thought before, new planning is needed and probably new technology, while the polar night is about to start in these latitudes.


Grounded shrimp trawler Northguider at Sparreneset in Hinlopenstretet, august 2019.

In other words: nothing will happen with the wreck of the Northguider, which is still sitting on rocks just off the shore of Nordaustland, before the summer of 2020 – or, rather, nothing other than what the forces of nature, ice and weather, will do with the wreck. If there is then anything left to be salvaged in 2020 is something that only time can tell.

Salvaging Northguider proves more difficult

Salvaging the shrimp trawler Northguider, which ran aground in Hinlopenstretet in December last year, has turned out to be more difficult than thought before, as the Norwegian coastal adminstration authority Kystverket reports in a press release. The hull is more severely damaged than expected which makes the operation according to the initial plan impossible.

Northguider ran aground in late December 2018 at Sparreneset south of Murchisonfjord. The ship owner is required to remove the wreck within 2019, but this is now becoming doubtful: the polar night is soon to start, the sun will not rise above the horizon anymore for 4 months from late October. Shipping is not impossible during the dark season, but if a complicated salvaging operation can be carried out safely and successfully without daylight is an entirely different question.


Salvaging vessels and the grounded trawler Northguider at Sparreneset in Hinlopenstretet, August 2019.

The salvaging vessels arrived on location only rather late in the summer, and then the operation was delayed repeatedly by severe ice and weather conditions. Only recently the wreck could be turned into an upright position and then it became appearent that damages on Northguider’s hull are far more extensive than expected. An area of 12×5 metres is said to be impacted.

Now all the players involved, including the coast guard, Kystverket, the ship owner Opilio AS, the insurance company and the salvaging company SMIT Salvage have to come up with a new plan. It appears rather unlikely that this will all happen within 2019. Officials have already mentioned postponing the operation until 2020 as an option. But if Northguider will still be there in the summer of 2020, after months on end with ice and severe weather, and in a condition that allows removing the wreck, will remain an open question until then.

Local government elections in Longyearbyen

A new local government (“Lokalstyre”) was elected in Longyearbyen yesterday (Monday, October 07). The municipal council has 15 members and elects the Lokalstyreleder (“mayor”) from these members. Lokalstyre administrates the area of the community of Longyearbyen, but does not decide on the politics in Svalbard beyond Longyearbyen.

Most votes were counted Monday evening. The result is not yet final, but major changes are not expected anymore. According to the preliminary result, Arbeiderpartiet (Ap, labour party, social-democratic) received most votes and will have 5 out of the 15 seats in the future community council. Venstre (V, a social-liberal party) got a few votes less but will also have 5 “Lokalstyremedlemmer” (community council members). Høyre (H, conservative party) and Fremskrittspartiet (right-wing libertarian party) will have 2 seats each. The local branch of Miljøpartiet De Grønne (green party) received a rather disappointing result and will only have 1 seat in the future community council, something that has certainly also to do with their election campain – not much was heard from Miljøpartiet De Grønne in Longyearbyen during the months and weeks before the elections.

Arild Olsen (Ap) has been Lokalstyreleder (mayor) since 2015. Both Olsen and Terje Aunevik (V) have chances to take the mayor’s chair in the future community council.

The voter participation was 61.7 %. All inhabitants are eligible to vote after a certain period which depends on their nationality.

Longyearbyen Lokalstyre was established in 2002, introducing local democracy in Svalbard’s largest settlement. Lokalstyre and the mayor are not to be confused with the Sysselmannen (“governor”), who is the highest representative of the Norwegian government. The Sysselmannen is not elected but appointed by the government in Oslo.

Lokalstyrewahl (elections) in Longyearbyen

Lokalstyrevalg (community council elections) in Longyearbyen.
The council meets in “Næringsbyggget” (left).


News-Listing live generated at 2019/October/21 at 01:17:36 Uhr (GMT+1)