Tourist fined for getting too close to Walrus in Norway

Many walruses live on Svalbard, Norway (Alamy/PA)
Many walruses live on Svalbard, Norway (Alamy/PA)

A tourist visiting the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard has been fined the equivalent of £900 for getting too close to a walrus to take a picture.

Members of the public alerted local authorities when they saw him going onto an ice floe and “disturb” the mammal.

The law in Svalbard stipulates people must not conduct themselves in a way which causes unnecessary disturbance of wildlife.

The incident happened near Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost settlement, home to polar bears, seals, whales, reindeer and arctic foxes.

The tourist was subsequently brought to the governor’s office, where he accepted the fine.

Authorities encouraged everyone to keep a good distance from walruses.

Police prosecutor Magnus Rindal Fredriksen told the BBC that parts of the incident were observed by several of the governor’s employees.

Mr Rindal Fredriksen adding that the tourist, who is a Polish citizen, had arrived in the area on the same day.

He said: “Why did he do it? He was after a good picture.”

Despite decades of protection, the number of walruses in the region is still low.

They remain on the Norwegian National Red List, which identifies species at risk of going extinct.

Because of concerns over the impact of tourism and climate change, the Norwegian government has announced tougher regulations, coming into place next year, that include a ban on getting within 150 metres of a walrus.

Other measures include a cap on cruise ships and designated landing sites.