A 38-year-old Dutch man has been killed by a polar bear in the Norwegian Arctic Svalbard islands, local authorities said.

The man was attacked in his tent at a camping site in the pre-dawn hours. No further details about his identity were immediately available.

"The bear was shot at by people on site and walked towards the airport, which is nearby," Svalbard Deputy Governor Soelvi Elvedahl said in a statement.

He said the bear was later found dead in the airport's car park.

Halfway between the northern tip of Europe and the North Pole, the Svalbard archipelago of snow-capped mountains and glaciers is home to 2,939 people and 975 polar bears, according to Norway's statistics office and the Norwegian Polar Institute.

In 2014, a British teenager was killed in a polar bear attack in the same region.

Horatio Chapple, 17, was on a nature expedition trip to the Svalbard archipelago organised by the British Schools Exploring Society.

Four other people were injured in the attack on their camp site.

Polar bears are a protected species and shooting them is allowed only for self-defence and as a last resort.

Outside Svalbard's main settlements, people are obliged by law to carry the means to scare the animals away or defend themselves, with authorities recommending they take a gun.

The islands are seeing increased activity, mainly from tourism and scientific research, and encounters between humans and animals are increasing.

In addition, the Arctic ice sheet is shrinking, reducing the amount of space polar bear can roam on.