Snowmobile traffic is banned until June 1 in popular travel areas at Billefjorden, Tempelfjorden and Rindersbukta due to heavy traffic disrupting polar bears and seals during peak spring hunting season, The Governor of Svalbard announced Thursday.
“The total burden on the environment in these areas has increased as a result of the traffic,” said Morten Wedege, head of environmental protection for the governor, in a prepared statement. “We regard this as a necessary measure to protect seals and polar bears in a particularly vulnerable phase.”
The off-limits areas include:
• Rindersbukta: Areas covered by sea ice within a straight line between Ottoneset and Fagerstaneset.
• Tempelfjorden: Sea ice within a straight line between the mouth of Murdochelva and Kapp Schoultz. It is allowed to cross the sea ice outside this area on tracked vehicles (snowmobile) using the shortest navigable route. When crossing areas covered by sea ice in accordance with this decision, it is prohibited to pause or to come to a complete stop.
• Billefjorden (including Mimerbukta, Petuniabukta and Adolfbukta): It is allowed to cross the sea ice in on tracked vehicles (snowmobile) using the shortest navigable route between Nordenskiöldbreen and Pyramiden. When crossing areas covered by sea ice in accordance with this decision, it is prohibited to pause or to come to a complete stop.
The governor warmed last week travel limits were being considered following reports and observations of snowmobiles getting too close to wildlife and/or lingering in areas to observe. The Svalbard Environmental Protection Act prohibits any behavior that affects the behavior of wildlife.