Enlarged marine protected area around Svalbard
Earlier this year, the Norwegian government announced that it was creating five new protected areas on the arctic islands totaling 4,449km2, or eight per cent of Svalbard’s land area. But at the time, the seas off the coast were only protected to four nautical miles. This has now been extended to 12 nautical miles, and represents an additional 40,000km2 — an area roughly the size of Denmark. Totaling around 74,000km2 altogether, the protected area is safe from bottom trawling for fish, mining, oil and gas exploration and production, and other infrastructure development. Hunting of marine mammals - except for the minke whale - is also banned in the area.
Tourists flock to Svalbard every year to see polar bears, walrus, seals, whales and huge seabird colonies.
WWF has worked for the last ten years to achieve protected area status for the most valuable and vulnerable areas of Svalbard, including the seas around the islands.
The news follows the announcement on Monday 16 December that the Norwegian government is not to push ahead with oil drilling in the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway following a campaign byWWF.
"It’s a double Christmas present for everyone who cares about the environment," says Samantha Smith, Director of WWF's Arctic Programme. "The Norwegian government has shown that it understands the environment is important by protecting Svalbard and Lofoten. We hope this is a precedent for other areas in the Barents Sea under threat from oil and gas exploration."
For further information:
Director, WWF Arctic Programme
Tel: +47 22 03 65 18, mobile + 47 45 02 21 49
Communications Officer, WWF Arctic Programme
Tel: + 47 22 03 65 10, mobile + 47 93 00 64 47