The protected areas on the outer side of Karlsøy municipality are important for several species of seabirds. The areas have been inhabited since the Stone Age, and there were a number of egg and down harvesting sites right through to the 1980s. The seabirds use these areas for shelter, nesting, moulting and overwintering, as well as habitat. The vegetation here bears witness to agriculture and grazing areas, as well as featuring a number of plants that owe their presence to the guano from the bird cliffs. The areas are important to a number of marine mammals, such as grey and common seals, otters and several different species of whale. You can also experience a lot of geology, such as sand dune fields and moraines.

Photo: © Stine Emilie Nøding Hansen

Ytre Karlsøy Marine Protected Area 

Ytre Karlsøy is a representative coastal area for the region. This marine protected area covers no less than 410 km2, a significant part of which overlaps the Nordkvaløya-Rebbenesøya Protected Landscape Area.

The marine protected area aims to protect an outer coastal area. The depth and current conditions vary greatly here, which creates many different habitat areas with a wide variety of plants and animals.

The landscape of the marine protected area consists of everything from exposed rocky coasts, via islands, islets and rocks in shallow areas to deeper fjords. The seabed consists of everything from sand and shell flats, a rocky and stony bed, to continental shelf plains and a marine part at the very edge of the protected area. Flora and fauna as varied as the seabed conditions. The area is important for kelp forests, as spawning, growth and habitat areas for fish, and for the shell sand and soft seabed areas and the species that inhabit them. Coral can be found in the deepest areas, such as Grøtøydjupet, while at Sørskardvågen the low oxygen levels in the water at the seabed make the composition of the species found here special. You can also see marine animals such as grey seals, harbour porpoises and several whale species. There are also a number of bird cliffs and important overwintering areas for seabirds.

Flatvær Nature Reserve

Flatvær lies just north-east of Nordkvaløya. The nature reserve consists of 52 grass-covered islets surrounded by rocks and shallow areas. There were formerly settlements here, and the area was preserved as an egg and down harvesting site right until 1982. Nesting birds here include cormorants and gulls, while a number of ducks use the area for moulting. Common and grey seals breed on these islands, and you can pick cloudberries once they are ripe. There are abundant herbs in the kelp belt, as well as numerous plant species associated with the former settlement.

Photo: © Stine Emilie Nøding Hansen
Photo: © Oddrun Skjemstad

Måsvær Nature Reserve

The nature reserve consists of Store Måsværet and the skerries beyond, along with a number of small islets, rocks and shallows. The area is very important to seabirds and is a major nesting area. It was also preserved as an egg and down harvesting site right until 1982. Måsvær is a birthing site for the common seal, and grey seals can also be seen here. The vegetation is influenced by the periodically hard weather conditions.

Breivika Nature Reserve

Breivika lies in an inaccessible location on the outer side of Rebbenesøya. If the weather permits, it is possible to enter by boat. If not, there is no option except to walk across the mountain. Here you will find a stunning white sandy beach, sand dunes and moraines. The sand dunes, in particular, are of important geological value. This area, too, was previously inhabited, from the Stone Age until the start of the 20th century. The vegetation is everything from beach vegetation to lush cultivated meadows, pasture, birch forest and bogland.

Photo: © Oddrun Skjemstad
Photo: © Cecilie Kristiansen

Kvitvær and Sørfugløya Nature Reserves

Kvitvær Nature Reserve is a nesting area for the cormorant and gannet. The common eider and king eider both winter there, while the grey seal is also found in this area.

Sørfugløya is one of Norway’s most important bird cliffs and a highly significant nesting area, particularly for razorbills and puffins. However, black and common guillemots also nest in the nature reserve, along with a number of other species of seabird. The island was preserved as an egg and down harvesting site right until 1982. Both grey and common seals have been seen with young in the area.