The World Heritage Area
The Vega Archipelago was inscribed on the UNESCO List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage when the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held its 28th committee meeting in Suzhou, China. The Committee justified its decision as follows: “The Vega Archipelago reflects the way generations of fishermen/farmers have, over the past 1,500 years, maintained a sustainable living in an inhospitable seascape near the Arctic Circle, based on the now unique practice of eider-down harvesting, and it also celebrates the contribution of women to the eider-down process”.
In other words, the justification for inscribing the Vega archipelago on this prestigious list is the unique cultural landscape of the area, which results from interaction between man and nature over a great length of time. Particular emphasis is placed on the unique tradition of tending wild eiders and collecting and processing their down. While the manfolk were away fishing, the women looked after the eiders sitting on their eggs in the nests and ‘houses’ which the families in the Vega archipelago had made for them during the spring. The women also cleaned the down, which was an outstanding and valuable export commodity from Norway to Europe.
Where is the World Heritage?
The unique cultural landscape with its eider tradition was the main reason why the Vega Archipelago received World Heritage status in 2004. Most of the World Heritage Area is therefore situated in the archipelago beyond Vega itself, the largest island.
However, the lofty mountains on the south side of Vega and the wetlands in the north of the island were also included in the World Heritage Area. They provide an insight into other aspects of the rich natural and cultural history of the island realm.
The part of the borough of Vega that was not defined as World Heritage is called the buffer zone. It borders onto the World Heritage Area and most building, business and industrial activities, including tourist facilities, are intended to be confined to this zone. This enables the borough council to ensure an appropriate, controlled development of the actual World Heritage Area. The Ministry of the Environment has followed this up by helping to fund a future World Heritage Centre at Nes.