VLISSINGEN, the Netherlands – Tourists of the “Eco Volunteer, North Spitsbergen” trip organized by Oceanwide Expeditions have been cleaning the beaches of Northwest Spitsbergen. Tourists on this specially-designed cruise spend half of their cruise cleaning beaches of detritus washed up by the tide.
Approximately 16 cubic metres of waste was collected from a total of 4.25nm of beach. 3 m3 more than the similar trip contributed on the same vessel – m/v Ortelius – last year. The garbage was sorted onboard and with the assistance of Sysselmannen and the Svalbard Environmental Fund it has now been disposed of in a proper manner.
The cleaning efforts were concentrated in the historically important areas around Danskøya and Amsterdamøya in the Northwest Spitsbergen National Park which are significant sites associated with the late 19th Century race to the North Pole and 17th Century whaling ventures, respectively. The sites were selected in cooperation with the Sysselmannen, the governor of Svalbard who provided support with large storage bags and burlap sacks.
The voyage has attracted employees from the UN Environment Programme, the WWF, and PhD writers. The refuse is mainly discarded fishing gear and plastics, breaking down to roughly:
• 40% nets and ropes
• 40% plastic
• 10% floats
• 10% miscellaneous objects
Celebrating the success of the program Expedition Leader Jim Mayer said, “Once again I have been pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm of the passengers for their cleaning task and their disappointment once the job is over.”
In recent years more and more focus has been on the immense quantity of garbage (in particular plastics) that is dumped into the oceans of the World. Although the high Arctic archipelago of Svalbard is very remote, the Gulf Current terminates in this area bringing up untold tons of garbage every year. Oceanwide Expeditions completed the first “Clean Up Svalbard” trip of the Svalbard cruise industry in 2015.