Could the Lofotodden National Park become the core zone of a Biosphere Reserve?

“Could the Lofoten be a candidate to become an LT&C-Example?” and “What to expect from the new Lofotodden National Park, and what could be learned from other protected areas for the further development around the Lofoten?”  were the questions a recent workshop in Ramberg, Lofoten, has dealt with. Linking Tourism & Conservation (LT&C) had invited local and foreign experts on tourism and conservation. The short answer on the first question obviously was “not yet”. For the second question the workshop provided a valuable forum for exploring ideas for establishing a larger UNESCO Biosphere Reserve around the new Lofotodden national park.

Workshop at UL Lysbøen, Ramberg, Lofoten, Norway

The workshop took place May 31, and just one week before the new Lofotodden national park should officially be inaugurated. The decision of the Norwegian government to establish a park within the last year has been one of many controvers discussions, as Jim Wilson from Birdlife Norway described at the beginning of the workshop. June Grønseth, Head of Naturvernforbundet in Lofoten, thereafter had a special focus on plastic pollution when talking about “What needs to be done for the protection of the marine environment around the Lofoten?”. Ornithologist Martin Eggen added other larger problems, such as climate change and certain fishing practices, which recently could have caused significant decrease of seabird populations in the area. Although he saw the establishment of the Lofotodden mountain national park as a major success, marine areas are hardly covered by the new protected area, but should get much more attention.

The Lofoten are an ideal area to watch white-tailed sea eagles.. Photo: Peter Prokosch

Tourism seen more as problem than as a positive factor

When Hanne Lykkja, Advisor to Nordland Fylkeskommune, gave a comprehensive presentation on “How could visitor strategies for the management of protected areas look like and agreed with local stakeholders?”, many problems and challenges of managing the rapidly increasing numbers of tourists came into focus. In recent years at certain tourist hotspots on the Lofoten an annual increase of tourists measured about 300%, illustrated Sigfus Kristmannsson from Lofoten Turlag and Lofoten Friluftsråd with pictures of traffic-, toilet- and pollution problems.

Mountain view at the Northern part of Lofotodden national park. Photo: Peter Prokosch

Can the concept of a Man and Biosphere Reserve be a solution?

When it comes to strategies for the management of visitors, the exchange of experiences with other recently established Norwegian national parks could be valuable. In this context, the director of Raet national park on the Norwegian South coast, Jenny Marie Gulbandsen, talked about “What are the first experiences with Norway’s largest marine national park, Raet, and what plans are there for its future development?“. From Germany, we had guest speaker Olaf Ostermann from the Environment Ministry in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern as expert on UNESCO Man and Biosphere (MaB) Reserves. He raised the question of whether the MaB concept could be applied for the Lofoten in order to integrate interests to protect cultural values as well as traditional and sustainable use. Several workshop participants wondered, why Norway altogether has not yet introduced this concept, although the countries national parks mostly meet the criteria for Biosphere Reserves much more than the international national park standards. In the light of existing political discussions to protect the marine surroundings of the Lofoten from any oil development, finding sustainable ways of managing tourism and conserving traditional forms of agriculture and fishery, a larger Biosphere Reserve could be seen as the ideal solution. The newly established Lofotodden national park could become a core zone of such an integrated protected area system.

Singing bluethroats belong to the season and the Lofoten landscape. Photo: Peter Prokosch

Several participants of the workshop had the next day the opportunity at an excursion, guided by Martin Eggen, to experience the Northern part of the mountain park. They were excited by the scenic landscape and wondered, whether any ideas raised at the workshop will be taken up in the future. It still has to be seen, whether the tourism business on the Lofoten will support a protected area system, which includes also larger parts of the marine surrounding. Only then would it be possible to talk about a Norwegian LT&C-Example.

Download the presentations:

Where are good examples on the Lofoten , where tourism is linked to conservation of nature? (Sigfús Kristmannsson)

Lofoten workshop (Peter Prokosch)

What is the concept of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserves, and could it be applied for the Lofoten? (Olaf Ostermann)