AECO has in co-operation with Oceanwide Expeditions and G-Adventures, and with contribution from the Governor of Svalbard, conducted a Clean Up Svalbard cruise feasibility study. The conclusion for the feasibility study is that AECO in continuous cooperation with the two cruise operators and with contribution from the Governor of Svalbard, would like to conduct a full-scale Clean Up Svalbard cruise project. The cruise industry would like to help clean beaches in Svalbard and has recently applied Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund for financial.
If granted funding from Svalbard Environmental Fund, two Clean Up Svalbard cruises will be organized, one in 2015 and one in 2016. The two cruise operators will through discounted prices invite customers to participate in beach cleaning in the Arctic. Sea currents transport a lot of garbage to the beaches in Svalbard. Much of this garbage origin in the fishing industry, and fishnets, trawl balls and plastic dominates the picture. The garbage is an esthetical problem in a pristine environment, but it is also a threat to wildlife. Animals are caught in fishnets and birds are known to eat plastic, this all with potential fatal consequences.
Several initiatives have been taken to help on the garbage situation in Svalbard.
Approximately ten years ago Oceanwide Expeditions, one of the expedition cruise operators with long history in Svalbard, turned to the Governor with a proposal to help clean beaches. This was the birth of Clean Up Svalbard project which since has been running as a cooperation between the Governor and the expedition cruise industry in Svalbard. While the Governor takes responsibility for overhead costs and garbage, each cruise operator invites their passengers to contribute a little during some landings. This is a very small activity of the cruise itinerary, and since cruise operators often return to the same beaches, the amount of garbage collected by each passenger may be small. Over the years, however, the amount has become significant.
Simultaneously with Clean Up Svalbard, the Governor has also organized a beach cleaning for locals. During a week’s boat trip, approximately 24 persons have had beach cleaning as their main activity. The trip has been free of charge and the local interest has been very good. Large amounts of garbage have been collected this way. The economic cost of such a cruise is large, and has been covered by the Governor of Svalbard.
Based on these experiences the idea for the Clean Up Svalbard cruise is that a full vessel of cruise passengers will help clean beaches in Svalbard through hours of work every day during the cruise. This would be a great effort and has potential of removing many tons of garbage.