The treasure of the Lofoten Islands

The archipelago is at the center of many debates on assumptions related to the presence of oil, but it is above all an unique natural environment which attracts visitors from all over the world and it is also very important for fishing

Crossing the Lofoten islands, which snow-capped mountains rise from the water next to typical fishing villages, means lay our eyes on an unique environment. From 2006 the Norwegian Parliament discusses the hypothesis to carry out tests on the presence of oil in the archipelago, but the government’s program, which was updated in 2010, does not require drilling in this area. The government in 2011 has postponed decisions in Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja at after the elections of 2013 and decided not to open the area to the exploration neither in the period 2013-2017, before the conclusion of a statement of environmental impact. In the local community there are different opinions, because fishing has known a significant decline and the fleet, which in the period after the WWII had one hundred and twenty thousand ships, amounts today at only twelve thousand vessels.

Among the environmental organizations most active in countering the hypothesis of mining activities there are “Norges Naturnvernforbundet” committed to the protection of the area for the benefit of the younger generation and “Folkeaksjonen”, which is also determined to ensure the protection of the environment in the archipelago. The area of Lofoten, Vesterålen and Andøya is from an ecological point of view a real treasure, a marine area with one of the greatest biological diversity in the world: there lay their eggs a lot of different species of fish, such as cod and herring. Off the island of Røst there is the largest coral reef in cold waters and the largest colony of puffins on the planet, while the area near Andøya is important for many types of whales. More than one thousand islands base their economy nowadays on the presence of visitors from all over the world and the preservation of the environment. If in summer the area is beautiful, in the winter the islands are famous for features lights that enliven the night sky.

The culture of the coast remains recognizable: fishing is already a vital activity for the region and everyone can see its daily importance. Commercial activities off the coasts of Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja are driven by the Management Plan for the Barents Sea and the waters of the archipelago of Lofoten. The Agency for Climate and Pollution, the Institute of Marine Research, the Directorate for Nature Management, the Norwegian Polar Institute are aware of the complex morphology of the places and with the issues connected in cases of installations close to coast, where actions to protect the integrity of the environment are more difficult. Norway is one of the leaders of the new alternative energy and therefore many people think that it would be better to focus on renewable sources, while international companies in the oil and gas industry point on new promises of the development related with the classical energy sources.

In the Lofoten Islands there are also some interesting architectural evidences connected with the long presence of fishermen in the archipelago: many maritime excursions leave to Vestfjord with the aim to show them to the visitors, and it is also possible to rent boats while excursions are available for all the neighboring islands. Travelers can also go for whale watching in excursions organized for this purpose, while an other interesting destination is the Trollfjord. Tourists love excursions in the mountains that rise everywhere on these unique islands and it is possible to visit the islands of the archipelago by renting bicycles or cars. Lofoten tourists can also engage in climbing, horse riding and visit the exhibition illustrating the life of fishermen in these places. There are also many art galleries: the painters of course did not remain insensitive to the unique atmosphere of this archipelago.

Aldo Ciummo

Foto © Aldo Ciummo