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'We take this seriously'

Most of the garbage that litters the beaches of Spitsberger comes from the fishing industry. FOTO: Geir Barstein

'We take this seriously'

Garbage in Svalbard is predominantly debris from the fishing industry. The Norwegian Fishermen's Association is calling for a clearer stance from authorities.

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According to The Governor of Svalbard, debris from the fishing industry constitutes the bulk of marine garbage in the archipelago, with huge quantities of nets, piece of rope, crates, trawl balls and straps – not unlike what officials recently found a seal caught in – strewn on beaches. During this year's beach cleanup cruise, participants collected a total of 101 cubic meters of waste from only a few beaches on northern Spitsbergen.

Apologetic

Jan-Eirik Indrestrand, information manager for the Norwegian Fishermen's Association, said the organization is taking the problem seriously.

"We live off the sea and good management," Indrestrand wrote in an e-mail to Svalbardposten after being sent pictures of this year's cleanup cruise and the seal killed earlier this summer. "That animals suffer as a result of human activity, we unfortunately see many examples of in nature. I am the first to regret such suffering."

"We are making it clear towards the fishermen and the industry regarding our role in relation to reducing the amount of marine garbage, both their own and others."

"We are finding that our members have a conscious awareness about taking care of gear and rubbish, while at the same time we know that they may be lost due to the weather."

He stated that, among other measures, NFA President Kjell Ingebrigtsen attended a beach cleanup near Bodø this summer and the organization is planning a workshop on marine pollution for September.

"We have also collaborated with Norwegian Environment Agency to establish the basis for better delivery of garbage, but it has taken a very long time to establish something. So far there is talk of a pilot project being implemented," Indrestrand wrote, noting the organization has "a series commitment to monitoring by the responsible authorities."

"It is a big challenge to get rid of garbage in many ports."

Indrestrand also noted fisheries garbage is an international problem.

"That there are many traces of fisheries and aquaculture in Svalbard is not the same as saying everything stems from Norwegian fishermen, without that being an excuse," he wrote.

"At an international level, Norway must be clearer on emphasizing that we are experiencing being the recipient of international waste."

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