Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of Aug. 18, 2015


Russia: We didn’t reject bear census; we need more time
Russia is denying it has rejected granting researchers access to its territory for a joint Russian-Norwegian census of polar bears in the Barents Sea region, instead arguing Russia’s legislature needs sufficient time to evaluate the project. “The request from the expedition organizers is still under consideration in the respective Russian ministries and agencies,” wrote Andrey Kuliko, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Oslo, in an e-mail. An agreement to conduct the census, the first in 11 years, was reached by both countries in February since the bear population in the region is now highly uncertain. But Norwegian Polar Institute researchers were forced to limit their count only to the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea region since Russia to grant access to its territory when the census started a the end of July. The count is more than half finished and project leaders have said they hope Russia will conduct a censes of its territory in the near future so an overall – if less than ideal –picture of the bear population can be obtained.

Group facing charges of shooting guns while drunk  
A report of several intoxicated people firing weapons at a cabin the Isfjord area at about midnight Friday resulted in police flying to the cabin by helicopter to investigate the disturbance. “The complaint was that the shooting was disturbing the rest of the tourists in the area,” said Vidar Arnesen, a police chief lieutenant for The Governor of Svalbard. “There were a total of seven people in the cabin, but not all were involved in the shooting.” Shooting a firearm while intoxicated is illegal and the matter has been referred to prosecutors.

Motorists urged to exercise caution as school year starts
Drivers are being urged to be extra careful as Longyearbyen students start school Thursday, with The Governor of Svalbard planning to monitor traffic in the vicinity of Polarflokken kindergarten, one of the most heavily-traveled street areas in town.