Amendments to environmental regulations in Svalbard

The Norwegian Government has adopted several amendments to the environmental regulations in Svalbard. The purpose is to protect wildlife, and one of the largest wilderness areas left in Europe.

- Climate change together with increased activity has resulted in a great pressure on the vulnerable arctic wildlife and nature in Svalbard. We are now tightening the environmental regulations in Svalbard to strengthen the protection of flora and fauna, says the Norwegian minister of climate and environment, Mr. Andreas Bjelland Eriksen.

Amongst the adopted changes are provisions that limit shore landings for tourists, a restriction on how many passengers are permitted on board ships in the protected areas and a ban on the use of drones. The Ministry of Climate and Environment has also adopted changes to regulations on motor traffic, camping and a new regulation on assessment of infringement fees.

Proposed changes to the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act will be presented to the Norwegian parliament for final approval. The proposal consists of changes to provisions on polar bear protection with a proposed distance requirement of 300 and 500 metres to polar bears and a ban on the use of drones closer than 500 metres to a bird cliff.

The amendments entry into force 1 January 2025.

The main amendments:

  • Landings in protected areas are prohibited, except for 43 landing sites shown on maps included as annexes to regulations for protected areas. This prohibition only applies to tourist activities, not individual travellers or permanent residents.
  • A limit of 200 passengers on board ships in all protected areas.
  • The use of unmanned vessels (drones) is prohibited in protected areas.
  • The use of snowmobiles and tracked vehicles is permanently banned on sea ice after 1 March in selected fjords, with an exception for access to cabins.
  • Motor traffic at sea may not exceed the speed limit of 5 knots at a distance of 500 metres form land outside bird cliffs in the period 1 April to 31 August.
  • Motor traffic at sea must keep a minimum of 150 metres distance from haul-sites for walruses (except for necessary access to ports, buildings etc) and the speed limit for motor traffic is 5 knots at a distance of 300 metres from haul-sites for walruses.
  • A general ban against breaking fast ice. The ban does not apply to motor traffic to keep the fairway into Longyearbyen and Barentsburg open, for supplies to Ny-Ålesund, as well as for the Norwegian Coast Guard’s performance of necessary tasks.
  • More camping activities requires a permit.