Tourist Fined Over $1,100 for Approaching Walrus in Svalbard

A tourist exploring the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard received a fine exceeding $1,100 (£900) for venturing too close to a walrus.

Local authorities were alerted by concerned members of the public who witnessed the individual approaching the walrus on an ice floe.

Approaching wildlife in a manner that disturbs them is prohibited by law on Svalbard, where Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost settlement, is located.

Under the Svalbard Environment Act, all activities on the archipelago must be conducted in a manner that avoids unnecessary disruption to the local wildlife, which includes polar bears, seals, whales, reindeer, and arctic foxes.

The governor has emphasized the importance of maintaining a safe distance from walruses to prevent disturbance and ensure the safety of both people and animals.

According to police prosecutor Magnus Rindal Fredriksen, aspects of the incident were witnessed by several employees of the governor.

The incident occurred “very close to Longyearbyen, at the bottom of the fjord,” stated Mr. Rindal Fredriksen, noting that the tourist, a Polish citizen who had arrived in the area that day, was apprehended and fined by the governor’s office.

The police prosecutor believes the individual sought a compelling photograph as motivation for their actions.

Spring and summer draw numerous tourists to Svalbard, an almost pristine archipelago in the high Arctic, where the sun remains visible throughout the night under the phenomenon known as the “midnight sun.”

Walruses in Svalbard have been under protection since 1952, following centuries of intense commercial exploitation that decimated their population to just a few hundred.

Although their numbers have rebounded since protective measures were implemented, walruses remain on Norway’s National Red List due to their vulnerable status.

In response to concerns regarding the impact of tourism and climate change, the Norwegian government has announced stricter regulations set to take effect next year. These measures include a prohibition on approaching within 150 meters of a walrus, as well as limitations on cruise ship numbers and the establishment of designated landing sites.


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