Norway fines French Arctic adventurer

Norway fines French Arctic adventurer
Longyearbyen, Svalbard. File photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix
A Norwegian court on Tuesday slapped the leader of a French maritime expedition with a fine of 30,000 kroner (3,300 euros, $3,500) for violating the regulations of the Arctic Svalbard archipelago.

Gilles Elkaim was convicted of violating several local rules including anchoring in a forbidden nature reserve, failing to notify the authorities of his stops in protected areas, and travelling with dogs without necessary veterinary authorisation.

A court in Tromsø, located in northern Norway, also ruled the 56-year-old Frenchman must reimburse legal costs of 10,000 kroner (1,090 euros, $1,180).

“It's a safe bet that we will appeal the decision if it's not favourable, “Elkaim had told AFP in a written message on Monday, slamming the case against him as a “parody of justice”.

Norwegian authorities impounded his Arktika 2.0 vessel, a 15-metre sailboat carrying three people and seven sled dogs, last October in Longyearbyen, the capital of Svalbard.

Elkaim claims to have decided to spend winter in a northeastern fjord of the archipelago due to a pump failure and bad weather that prevented his boat from reaching its point of departure in the Arctic.

The purpose of a planned two-year expedition was to drift in icy waters between the islands of New Siberia and Greenland, then reach the North Pole by sledge.

In November, the adventurer refused to pay a fine of 25,000 kroner (2,730 euros, $2,950), which resulted in a trial in Longyearbyen in February.

Norway was afforded sovereignty of Svalbard, located around a thousand kilometres (around 621 miles) from the North Pole, under the 1920 Treaty of Paris.

Nationals of all signatory states – including France – enjoy “equal liberty of access and entry”, but the agreement also allows Oslo to take measures to protect flora and fauna on this archipelago populated by many polar bears.