AECO develops guidelines for two new landing sites in Western Svalbard

July 5th, 2017

Experts will study every aspect of the two sites, including the local flora. Depicted here is Dagmar Hagen, Senior Research Scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, on a previous site inspection. (Photo: Ole Magnus Rapp).

This week, experts are conducting inspections of Fuglehuken and Sallyhamna, two sites in Svalbard that are expected to receive an increasing number of cruise tourists. The purpose of the inspection is to develop guidelines that allow tourists to visit the sites without disturbing their unique nature and cultural remains.

Unique and vulnerable areas

Seeing the Arctic up close is one of the attractions of expedition cruises in the polar regions. Itineraries often include excursions and landings that give travelers the opportunity to go on shore and get a closer look at the area’s terrain, vegetation and wildlife. Some spots also offer visitors a glimpse into the region’s history in the form of man-made structures and other signs of human activity. However, visitors must tread carefully and take care not to leave traces of their visit.

Minimizing impact

The expedition cruise industry, represented by Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO), has been working with authorities in Svalbard to ensure that visits to vulnerable sites are well regulated. A central tool in this process are site specific guidelines that map and describe individual sites. The guidelines give advice on how tour operators can carry out landings with groups of people while avoiding negative environmental impacts and safety risks.

Sustainable site management

AECO’s Executive Director Frigg Jørgensen says that the site guidelines constitute an effective management tool for Arctic tourism.

“Before these guidelines were established, the authorities in Svalbard were actually considering closing some of these sites to tourism. The guidelines make it possible to regulate visits, and give operators the information they need to make responsible and careful use of these magnificent sites,” says Jørgensen.

The site guidelines project is financed by and is one of several initiatives to preserve Svalbard’s distinctive wilderness as a basis for experiences, knowledge and value creation. Since 2011, AECO has created guidelines for 20 sites in Svalbard. This summer, experts will inspect and develop guidelines two additional sites on the west coast of Spitsbergen: Fuglehuken and Sallyhamna.

AECO’s site guidelines for Svalbard have served as a model for site guidelines for Russia’s Arctic National Park, and has inspired similar initiatives in Canada, Greenland and Iceland.