It has been a long process, hence it did not come as a surprise when the new Van Mijenfjord national park was established by law on 18 June. The new national park includes the northern part of Van Keulenfjord and adjoins the South Spitsbergen Nationalpark. As a result, the whole southern part of the main island of Spitsbergen from southern Nordenskiöld Land (the land area between Isfjord and Van Mijenfjord) is now protected on national park level.
Inner Van Mijenfjord in late May: now a national park.
Successor of the Nordenskiöld Land national park
The Van Mijenfjord national park is the amplified successor of Nordenskiöld Land national park which was established in 2003, but restricted to a land area on the north side of Van Mijenfjord. There have been changes since 2003 that have made the adjustment necessary, including the large clean-up of the former mining settlement of Sveagruva. Another aspect that needed proper regulation were the regular requests by the Sysselmannen (now Sysselmester) who asked the public to stay clear of certain sensitive areas during the late spring and eary summer, but without a precise definition of the area and time interval in question and the legal bindingness, leaving room for doubt for those who were operating in the area. This is now regulated beyond any grey zone potential. Yet another aspect is motorised traffic (snow mobiles) on fjord ice. Also here, the Sysselmannen has spoken out bans on such traffic on a regular basis. Including these bans which were spoken out on an annual basis in a permanent law makes it easier to know what one has to deal with. The details of some of these regulations are of course at least in part controversial; the government has chosen a very extensive and strict approach to the ban on motorised traffic, something that not all local tour enthusiasts in Longyearbyen are happy with as the opportunities to visit the south part of the main island are now strongly restricted. It is definitely important to some people, but their number is actually limited as even in Longyearbyen there are not too many people adventurous (and interested) enough to venture on long trips into these areas, far from the common routes. There were no snow mobile routes of relevance for tourists in the area in question.
Three new bird sanctuaries, snow mobile traffic strongly restricted
The new Van Mijenfjord national park (green boundary). Yellow dots: new bird sanctuaries. Red area: motorised traffic on fjord ice restricted (see text). Shaded area: total ban on motorised traffic on fjord ice.
Map © Norwegian Polar Institute / Sysselmester på Svalbard, modified.
Generally, the new Van Mijenfjord national park law includes the same regulations that apply to all national parks. Beyond these, following rules of practical importance for locals and tourists include the following:
- Midterhuken, Eholmen and Mariaholmen are now bird sanctuaries and it is forbidden to approach these areas or to move within them from 15 May to 15 August. Click here to access a map that shows the exact locations of these new bird sanctuaries.
- Snow mobiles and other motorised traffic on the fjord ice of Van Mijenfjord and Van Keulenfjord are now largely restricted every season from 01 March. Only registered locals are allowed to cross the fjord ice of parts of Van Mijenfjord on the shortest safe route, while other areas are now completely off limits for this kind of traffic from 01 March. Click here to access a map that shows the areas in detail. Non-motorised traffic (ski, dog sledge) remains legally possible within the usual legal framework.
- The core area o the former mining settlement of Sveagruva is excluded from the national park. Here, extensive clean-up works will continue for another while until most of the settlement is removed.