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Tourist Fined For Getting Too Close To Walrus

A tourist has been fined NOK 12,500 Norwegian Kroner (£900) for approaching a walrus in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard.

The authorities said the man went out onto an ice floe on Wednesday and “disturbed a walrus that was lying on the ice”.

They said members of the public saw him approach the mammal and reported him to the local governor, and that “parts of the incident were also observed by the governor’s employees”.

There is a law in Svalbard which stipulates people must conduct themselves in a way which does not lead to unnecessary disturbance of wildlife.

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

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“The governor encourages everyone to keep a good distance from walruses so that they are not disturbed and so that no danger to people occur,” his office said in a statement.

Walruses were hunted practically to extinction in the Svalbard Archipelago up until they were protected by law in 1952, according to the government’s Norwegian Polar Institute.

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Despite decades of protection, the number of walruses in the region is still low and they remain on the Norwegian National Red List, which identifies species at risk of going extinct in Norway.

There will be new rules for motor traffic at sea from next year specifically aimed at protecting walruses, where it will be illegal to knowingly go within 150 metres of them. The speed limit will be five knots for any motor traffic within 300 metres of them.