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Breaking Down Svalbard's New Regulations 2025

Breaking Down New Svalbard Regulations 2025 and Secret Atlas’s Commitment to Conscious Travel

13 February 2024

MV Vikingfjord Svalbard Secret Atlas

The Norwegian government has recently adopted stricter environmental regulations on Svalbard, set to come into effect on 1 January, 2025. 

Our Expedition Micro Cruise concept is built on conscious travel, and as these rules aim to protect the Arctic environment and its wildlife – naturally, Secret Atlas welcomes steps towards protecting the wilderness. 

“We’re set on keeping the wilderness, wild!” – Mariano Curiel, Owner, Secret Atlas

We understand that you might have questions about Svalbard’s new regulations and how they may alter exploration in Svalbard. That considered, we’ve put together all the information you need, but you can always reach out to a member of our team if you have any questions. 

New Svalbard Regulations

The new regulations, adopted by Parliament include: 

  • Landings in protected areas will be prohibited, except for 43 designated landing sites.
  • Passenger limits of 200 will apply in all protected areas.
  • The use of drones is banned in all protected areas.
  • The use of snowmobiles and tracked vehicles is permanently banned on sea ice after 1 March in select fjords, with some exceptions for cabin access.
  • Motor traffic at sea must be kept at a maximum of 5 knots speed at a distance of 500 metres from land outside bird cliffs from 1 April to 31 August. 
  • Motor traffic at sea must be kept at a maximum of 5 knots speed and must keep a minimum distance of 150 metres distance from walrus haulout sites. 

Further details and regulations can be found here. 

Why Svalbard New Regulations Favour Expedition Micro Cruises

What do the limitations mean for you and your expedition? 

The way we travel, the way we do business and the way we think is undergoing a significant evolution, and it’s a change for the better. The planet has been spinning for millions of years, and if you think about that, the diversity of life forms as well as the existence of humanity at this moment in time is nothing short of a miracle. We recognise this privilege.  

With new regulations coming into play, action is necessary to change the way we operate. The most noteworthy is the reduction in landing sites will likely have the most noticeable impact on expedition cruises, as many popular spots are located within protected areas. However, we believe that these limitations are necessary to preserve Svalbard’s wilderness for future generations.

Our Expedition Micro Cruises focus on small groups, hosting just 12 guests which means we can access all 43 sites in Svalbard. All sites are limited to a maximum of 200 people (still too many in our opinion) and 13 of those are limited to a maximum of 39 people at a time. 

Travelling in small groups not only reduces the strain on Svalbard’s ecosystem but also allows for more meaningful connections with nature and fellow explorers. 

The reduction in landing sites will not diminish the quality of our expeditions because, as true explorers, we embrace the unpredictable nature of the Arctic and make the most of every opportunity. Rather than adhering to a strict itinerary, we observe nature as it unfolds, making the most of the opportunities we have within nature and always upholding respect wherever we visit.  That will never change.

Svalbard Map Infographics

Drones

The rules and implications for drone usage have developed in Svalbard and are put in place to reduce the disturbance of wildlife. Unfortunately, expedition guests are not permitted to use drones during their expedition. If we have members of our team flying drones, they are being used professionally and will adhere to theSvalbard regulations and AECO guidelines. 

Wildlife Watching 

Maintaining a respectful distance from wildlife has always been a priority, something having been  strictly enforced by our guides. The new regulations focus on the peak summer months when bird cliffs serve as crucial breeding grounds. It’s imperative not to disturb the delicate balance of nature. The opportunity to witness wildlife is still possible; it’s about maintaining a balance of respect between wild animals and ourselves. 

Why rush? Similarly, adhering to a speed limit of 5 knots has been introduced. We like to take things slow, often opting to switch off our engines, allowing us to observe the wildlife quietly. We’d say this is essential for the best wildlife watching opportunities. 

Understanding the Potential Impact on Tourism

Why Svalbard New Regulations Favour Small Ships 

The new regulations will alter the way we operate our expedition cruises in Svalbard, but the fundamental experience and ethos driven by Secret Atlas will remain. 

We strive to provide our guests with a genuine, honest experience in the wilderness, free from the constraints of itineraries and crowds. The long-term benefits of protecting Svalbard’s environment will benefit from these restrictions and heighten the awareness of those who visit this special part of the world. 

“It’s important to remember, that we manage our expectations and recognise nothing is guaranteed – appreciate the here and now. In a society focused on claiming ownership and demanding more, nature serves as a reminder of our place as visitors on this planet. It’s not an exhibit; it’s a sanctuary that reminds us of our connection to the earth and all living things.” Sophie Dingwall, Marketing Director

1% for the Planet

Our Commitment to Keeping the Wilderness Wild

At Secret Atlas, we promise to keep our communications with you transparent and will continue to inform you of evolving regulations in Svalbard. 

We support putting the environment first, aiming to set an example for the whole industry to show that we can still deliver a truly spectacular expedition, whilst prioritizing environmental preservation. 

One of the ways we show our support is partnering up with 1% for the Planet. This partnership means that we dedicate 1% of all our revenue to projects working towards positive change every single day. It’s our way of putting our money where our mouth is and actively contributing to projects that are making a real difference in the world.

Greenland Travel Guides