Jonathon Pie

Guidelines for viewing Arctic Wildlife

We wish to ensure that the Arctic wildlife stays unaffected by tourism and so we share these new AECO guidelines.

The Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators, known as AECO, has released new wildlife guidelines which can advise you how to act around animals like walrus, seals, reindeer, Arctic fox, birds, polar bears and cetaceans (whales and porpoises). Full of interesting facts about the animals, it is a "not so dry" reading before you visit. All of our exploration voyages to Svalbard follow these guidelines as they are mandatory for all AECO members.

'The Arctic is a captivating destination for animal-lovers and birders. AECO’s wildlife guidelines explain how to observe and photograph wildlife without disturbing it,' the association's executive director Frigg Jørgensen said.

The guidelines translate expert knowledge about animal behavior into practical know-how that can be used in the field. For example, if you are walking along a beach and suddenly an Arctic tern attacks, what do you do?

The guidelines explain that the bird is probably trying to protect a nearby nest so you should retreat, moving away in the direction you came from. If you hold up a hand or hat, the bird will aim for that instead of your head!! A bit like surviving a magpie attack!


The guidelines also contain information about animal behavior, recommended distances from different species, polar bear and walrus safety and how to position a ship or a group of tourists to avoid alarming the animals.

'The goal of expedition cruising is to bring passengers close to nature, and it is important that we are responsible visitors. Our members have decades of experience in Arctic cruise tourism, and spotting birds and animals is often the highlight of the voyage. These wildlife guidelines are a way of systematizing the best practices of our members when it comes to responsible and considerate wildlife observations,' Jørgensen said.

The guidelines were developed with the support of the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund, and are available here.

Check out our range of Arctic voyages here.

Image credits: Andy Brunner, Ray Hennessey, Jay Ruzesky and Jonathon Pie.