Exercise caution when breaking ice

The Governor reminds of the Svalbard Environment Act's provision on careful passage.

Published 3/19/2024, Last edited 3/22/2024

This year there is sea ice in many fjords on Svalbard. Throughout winter and spring, several species depend on this sea ice. The ringed seal give birth to their cubs in snow caves on the ice, and the ice is an important living and hunting area for polar bears.

Breaking sea ice is considered a deterioration of the natural environment and is not in line with the provisions of the Svalbard Environment Act. Section 73 of the Svalbard Environment Act states that all traffic on Svalbard must take place in a way that does not damage, litter or otherwise degrade the natural environment or cultural heritage or lead to unnecessary disturbance of people or wildlife.

Following channels in the sea ice that has already opened up as a result of boat traffic will also not be in line with the rules, as this can prevent the sea ice from settling again, and thus prolong the deterioration of the animals' habitat.

The Governor draws attention to that the Government has adopted an explicit ban on breaking sea ice which will come into force on 01.01.2025. New provision in the Motor Traffic Regulations Section 12a prohibits the breaking of fast ice, which is defined as continuous sea ice out from land. The adopted ban does not apply to motor traffic to keep the waterways to Longyearbyen and Barentsburg open, ensure supplies to Ny-Ålesund and for the Coast Guard’s necessary tasks where these cannot be solved in any other way.