A ban on snowmobiles and other motor traffic in a popular travel area of Tempelfjorden is in effect immediately due to several recent incidents of wildlife being disrupted at a time when they are particularly vulnerable, The Governor of Svalbard announced Wednesday.
“We have observed that a female polar bear with two cubs has been living in Tempelfjorden in recent weeks,” Morten Wedege, the governor’s environmental protection manager, said in a prepared statement. “In addition there are several other bears residing in the area.”
At the same time, there is a lot of traffic with snowmobiles and several unfortunate episodes involving snowmobiles on the fjord ice have been observed in recent days. We are now entering a particularly vulnerable period for ice-dependent species such as ring seals and polar bears. The seals are giving birth to their pups on the ice, and during a short period the bear will eat and put on as much as possible to get ready for many months with little food.”
The ban will be in effect until further notice, but no later than June 1, according to the governor’s office.
A ban in Tempelfjorden and two other popular travel areas was proposed by the governor in February, effective March 1, due to numerous disruptive incidents last year that resulted in a ban in the areas. The other two locations are at Billefjorden and Rindersbukta
The restrictions now in effect at Tempelfjorden are in line with the initial proposal, which prohibits motor traffic within a zone defined by a boundary between Kapp Schoultz and Kapp Murdoch (see map above).
“Outside this line you can cross the fjord along the shortest navigable route,” the governor’s statement notes. “When crossing, staying or stopping is not permitted except for safety reasons or technical problems.”
Officials from the governor’s office will also continue enhanced supervision in Tempelfjorden and other travel areas, although travellers are warned they are responsible for ensuring the areas they go are accessible and safe.