Clean Up Svalbard

Oceanwide is an initiator and active member of “Clean Up Svalbard“, which is now a project of the Governor of Spitsbergen. Today there are also some other vessel operators that contribute to the initiative. In 2009 Oceanwide Expeditions has been appointed to clean up a stretch of the coast of Edgeøya and Barentsøya for at least an hour per scheduled voyage.

The history behind this initative: Large amounts of litter have been washed ashore on some of the beaches in Svalbard. The bulk of the waste comes from shipping, especially from the fishing fleet in the Barents Sea and the waters around Svalbard. As it takes a long time for this waste to be broken down, it is accumulating fairly rapidly. It is obvious that this litter does not belong on the beaches of Svalbard. The colours of the garbage are in glaring contrast with the nature’s mellow colours and are therefore representing a considerable aesthetic littering.

In addition the garbage is also a threat to the wildlife in Svalbard. Reindeers get their antlers stuck in fishing nets and trash of iron, and can suffer a long and painful death.

The Governor of Svalbard has collected refuse around the islands for many years, but in the big scheme of things, it does not go very far. The Governor has therefore invited inhabitants of Svalbard to participate in a yearly trip where cleaning up beaches is the purpose. The response has been very high. Many people want to take part in this and participants are chosen by drawing lots before the trip starts.

Still there are infinite amounts of refuse and there are many areas that we are not able to reach. The Governor of Svalbard is getting help from the vessel operators (like Oceanwide) in involving tourists in this work. With many helping hands we hope we will be able to reach our goal: cleaner coasts of Svalbard.

How do we encourage passengers to get motivated to help?
There are small folders that the expedition leaders hand out to the passengers when they inform them about the project and then ask if they would like to participate. Those passengers who have participated receive a souvenir pin as a gift.

Oceanwide staff deposits bags of garbage in Longyearbyen at the end of the voyages. There is a special bin/container at the harbour. It's a great practical contribution to the environment.