Hearing on temporary changes to the Motor Traffic Regulations

The Governor submits for consultation a proposal for a temporary amendment to Section 8 of the regulation on motor traffic in Svalbard. The proposed changes include traffic on the sea ice in the areas of Billefjorden, Tempelfjorden and Dicksonfjorden. The hearing deadline is 23 February.

Published 2/9/2024

In the last six years, changes have been made to the motor traffic regulations to protect the habitats of ice-dependent species such as ringed seals and polar bears. The sea ice is constantly shrinking, with the consequence that the habitats are also reduced. It is of great importance that the ice-dependent species can use the remaining habitats without undue disturbance.

Ice has already settled well in the aforementioned fjords. Both permanent residents, researchers, tourists and others use the relevant fjords in winter. There is reason to believe that traffic will be similar to previous years. In 2024, it is also proposed to introduce a traffic ban for visitors to Dicksonfjorden, because the fjord is an important habitat for ice-dependent species, and the ice tends to settle early here. At the same time, there is a lot of activity in the area, such as in connection with tourism and film production. At the same time, Dicksonfjorden lies at the very edge of the area that is open to motorized traffic for visitors.

The Norwegian Polar Institute (NP) has provided a knowledge base which forms the basis of the Governor’s assessment of the need for traffic restrictions on sea ice. It is particularly important to highlight from the NP's knowledge base that the extent of ice, and thus also the habitats of polar bears and seal species, has been greatly reduced. The professional advice is clear on that a good distance should be kept from the area where there may be throwing pits for ringed seals, and that you must not drive towards and scare ringed seals that are resting on the ice. The knowledge base from NP, combined with the rapid climate changes, the persistent traffic pressure in the area and the precautionary principle in the Svalbard Environment Act, indicates that regulation of traffic in the areas is necessary.

The Governor wants consultation input on the proposed changes, in particular concrete input on how the parties to the consultation use the areas, concrete adjustments that are considered necessary for reasons of accessibility, and which are as much as possible in line with the considerations and purposes behind the regulation. The mayor also wants concrete feedback on what the consequences of the proposed changes will be.

See links to consultation letter and consultation documents with maps.