Temporary change to regulation on motor traffic in Svalbard

The Governor of Svalbard has decided to temporarily change the regulation on motor traffic in Svalbard. The changes will apply until 1 June 2024. The background for the regulation is the need to protect habitats and avoid disturbance of ice-dependent species.

Published 3/4/2024

The change in regulations will result in traffic restrictions on Tempelfjorden and Billefjorden. It is opened for crossing in corridors and on the shortest possible route. In addition, there is a traffic ban for visitors to Dicksonfjorden.

The proposal for a temporary change to the regulations was submitted for consultation on 09/02/2024. The Governor received six consultation responses.

The Governor has proposed temporary traffic restrictions every year since 2019. During the period, both permanent regulations for traffic on sea ice in Van Mijenfjorden National Park have been adopted through regulations on Van Mijenfjorden National Park, and changes have been adopted in the motor traffic regulations which involve regulation of traffic on sea ice in Tempelfjorden, Billefjorden and Dicksonfjorden from 1 January 2025. The environmental management on Svalbard must follow up on these guidelines and thus it is also natural that the proposal for traffic restrictions on sea ice corresponds to the adopted regulations, and that temporary restrictions are adopted in 2024.

With a steady reduction of sea ice, and thus also habitats for the ice-dependent species, as well as a persistent traffic pressure, a regulation of traffic on sea ice is considered to be necessary. Despite the fact that this year there seem to be good ice conditions, the areas with sea ice on the west coast of Svalbard are limited. It is the Governor’s responsibility to look after the natural environment on Svalbard, and to propose the regulations and measures that are necessary to ensure this. There are not considered to be conditions this year that indicate a milder regulation than in the past, or a lesser need for protection.

Visit Svalbard has had a concrete proposal for traffic regulation, which deals with the opening of a corridor from Kapp Schoultz to the glacier front at Von Postbreen. The Governor's conclusion is, as in previous years, that traffic into the area that the regulation is supposed to protect, will be contrary to the very background and purpose of the regulation. Whether the traffic comes from travellers or permanent residents has little significance for the disturbance effect.

It has been a point not to close the sea ice as a thoroughfare, either for permanent residents or tourism. It is precisely on this background that transport corridors have been proposed where it is possible to cross the fjords on the shortest possible route. The need for the use of sea ice in connection with research and teaching and access to commercial cabins is sought to be taken care of through dispensation authorisation. It is also possible to make exceptions for "works of significant social importance and in other special cases".

Otherwise, reference is made to the consultation letter for further information on the knowledge base and the Governor's assessment of the need for temporary change.