Wildlife

Published by the Norwegian Polar Institute Lag rapport

A number of the species in Svalbard have suffered from centuries of indiscriminate hunting and slaughtering. The result was dramatic reductions in populations of walrus, polar bear and Svalbard reindeer. Now, with conservation schemes in place for these large mammals, the populations are increasing again.

The responsibility of the Governor of Svalbard

The Governor of Svalbard is responsible for the day-to-day management of land species in the archipelago under the guidance of the Directorate for Nature Management.

The responsibility for marine species lies with the fishing authorities. Special regulations for Svalbard have been laid down for the management of land species, including the Regulations concerning the management of wildlife (1996) and the Regulations concerning the management of arctic char and other freshwater organisms (1997). A new environment protection act for Svalbard entered into force in 2002.

Populations of mammals increasing

Good wildlife management requires detailed knowledge of each species range, population numbers, and biology. A number of the species in Svalbard have suffered from centuries of indiscriminate hunting and slaughtering. The result was dramatic reductions in populations of walrus, polar bear and Svalbard reindeer. Now, with conservation schemes in place for these large mammals, the populations are increasing again. In the case of reindeer, regular hunting is again possible.

Population trends are monitored

Changes in the environment, whether man-made or natural, influence population trends. In order to detect changes at an early stage we have to monitor animal populations, which is usually expensive and difficult in the Arctic. Not only are the natural habitats difficult to get to, the distances involved can be daunting and the climate is harsh. We therefore utilise satellite technology and aircraft in addition to the more traditional counting and monitoring methods.

We need more information

In recent years the results have improved our data on key species like polar bear, reindeer, walrus, and barnacle goose. But there are still many important details we do not understand. An environmental monitoring programme for Svalbard and Jan Mayen (MOSJ) has been developed to remedy this situation.