Road to Látrabjarg in Poor Condition

The gravel road which leads to the popular travel destination Látrabjarg is in poor condition after the winter, Bæjarins Besta reports. The 440 metre high Látrabjarg is the westernmost point of Iceland. Home to millions of birds, it is a popular bird watching destination and receives high visitor numbers in the summertime. The cliff was chosen as one of the top 10 ocean viewing spots in the world by National Geographic.

Látrabjarg is situated on the southern part of the Icelandic Westfjords, and the road (road 612 – Örlygshafnarvegur) towards the cliff is plagued by deep holes which can damage vehicles passing through. The photographer Marino Thorlacius shed light on the issue with photos and videos of the road’s condition. “The The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration and Vesturbyggð don’t seem to understand that Látrabjarg and Rauðisandur are the places that attract people to the southern part of the Westfjords. The road access tarnishes the image of the area and is completely unacceptable.”, Marino commented. “Everyone knows that these are rural roads and their condition isn’t a 100% percent, but it’s not acceptable that they’re at 20% condition in the high season when the traffic is at its highest point”, Marino continued. He criticized the The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration for its part in it, and the fact that they have focused on other roads and areas.

Travellers are advised to show caution while driving the road, which is still deemed passable. Further information can be reached by phone (1777) and at www.road.is.

Locals Flock to Tanning Beds to Escape Rain

“It’s just because of the weather. I’ve never been to a tanning salon before,” said Guðni Kjærbo to a reporter who met him on his way out of Smart tanning salon in Reykjavík yesterday afternoon.

Ólöf Valborg Marý Viðarsdóttir, an employee at Smart, says that rainy weather has led to a very busy summer, with many customers tanning for longer than usual. Many tanners come just before a trip abroad, she says, afraid of looking pasty when they reach their sunny destinations.

“There are very many people going in for maybe 20 minutes or 30 minutes, also to feel the heat – it’s the heat that’s so comforting,” says Ólöf.

When asked whether she hoped the rainy weather would continue, Ólöf answered laughing “Uhh… not me personally, but maybe my boss!”

Sheep Farmers at the Mercy of the Market

Chairperson of the Icelandic Sheep Farmers Association Oddný Steina Valsdóttir says sheep farmers need better tools to respond when market conditions change. Oddný said in a radio interview that the industry still faces operational problems, but the government could take measures to resolve the situation faster.

Overproduction of lamb last year led to lower prices and a surplus of meat at the end of summer. One government proposal suggested decreasing the number of sheep in the country by as much as 20%, potentially leading to even heavier losses for farmers.

Oddný says farmers want to have tools to regulate production themselves, in order to better manage market fluctuations. “The situation today is that the production, sale, and pricing of sheep products is free at all levels. We believe it is important that contracts include some sort of tools so it is possible to respond and the industry can itself respond by creating incentives to reduce production if the situation is such,” Oddný says.

The association met with the Minister of Agriculture to review farming contracts last week. Oddný expressed disappointment that the government does not plan to amend the contract in the near future “but there is a willingness to sit at the negotiating table and hopefully something comes out of that.”

Midwives and Government Reach Agreement

A ten-month-long wage dispute between the Icelandic Association of Midwives and the government may be over, RÚV reports. An agreement was reached between the two parties thanks to the National University Hospital of Iceland. “What happened was that the National University Hospital has agreed to reassess the job description and responsibilities of midwives at the institution and apply that to its payroll,” stated Katrín Sif Sigurgeirsdóttir, chairperson of the Association of Midwives. Since the hospital is the largest single employer of midwives in Iceland, the decision is significant.

Voting on the contract begins today and is scheduled to be completed by Wednesday.

The ten-month-long dispute has led to two strikes and over 20 midwife resignations. Midwives argue that their wages and working conditions do not reflect their level of education and the responsibility inherent in their profession.

A work-to-rule strike at the hospital which had begun last week has been called off due to the development. Katrín expressed hope that the agreement would encourage midwives who had resigned from their positions to return to work.

Too Wet to Return Mermaid to Pond

As sharp-eyed sculpture enthusiasts may have noticed, the bronze mermaid statue that has long perched in the pond alongside Hljómskálagarður park in downtown Reykjavík has been missing for months. Mbl.is reports that the statue toppled into the pond during stormy weather last November. It has since been restored, but wet weather conditions have prevented it from being returned to the pond.

“There was more damage to her than we thought[…]We’ve repaired her and she’s been ready since February,” explained Sig­urður Trausti Trausta­son, the department head at the Reykjavík Art Museum, which oversees the sculpture garden.

Hafmeyan, (The Mermaid) by Icelandic sculptor Nína Sæmundsson, was a gift to the City of Reykjavík in 2014 from Smáralind shopping center in the neighbouring town of Kópavogur. It was introduced as part of the new statue garden in the park, which celebrates the foremothers of Icelandic sculpture.

An identical statue by the sculptor stood in the pond from August 1959 until New Year’s Day 1960, when it was blown up. The current mermaid was cast in bronze using the artist’s original mould from 1948.

Sigurður Trausti says that the mermaid’s foundation has been reinforced so that hopefully, she’ll be less likely to topple into the pond again in the future. However, the recent months of rain have prevented the museum from returning the mermaid to her post. “…It’s been raining for many months and so it isn’t possible to drive a crane into the garden and hoist her up on the pedestal without damaging the grass.” However, it’s hoped that conditions will soon be dry enough to return the mermaid to her home.

Remote Eastern Fjord for Sale

A plot of land in the remote fjord of Hellisfjörður in East Iceland is for sale, Austur Frétt reports. The plot, which is not accessible by road, is 1,900 hectares [4,695 acres] and therefore covers almost the entire fjord.

The fjord is currently in the ownership of Hollywood film producer Sigurjón Sighvatsson, who has owned it since 2018. According to Ævar Dungal, the real estate agent overseeing this sale, there’s already been a fair amount of interest from potential buyers in both Iceland and abroad. He notes, unsurprisingly, that it’s rare for whole fjords to be put up for sale in Iceland, but that in addition to that fact, this particular fjord has a lot of natural resources and interesting history to further recommend it.

A Norwegian whaling station was operated on the north side of the fjord from 1901 – 1913, and remnants of the operation are still visible there. There also used to be a village of the same name at the base of the fjord, although the whole area has been uninhabited since 1952. A summer house was built in the fjord in 1970, however, and is being sold along with the land. The house, which has solar panels installed on the roof, has two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen (with gas stove), and a living room. The fjord also boasts rich bird life, reindeer, and great trout fishing.

As there is no road into the fjord, the property must be reached by boat, horse, or on foot. This is unlikely to discourage potential buyers, however. “Many of the people who have shown an interest think it’s actually an advantage that there’s no road,” explained Ævar.

See photos of the property here.

Stock Exchange to Discontinue Publishing List of Largest Shareholders

The Iceland Stock Exchange (ICEX) has decided to discontinue publishing and distributing a list of the 20 largest shareholders in the companies that are listed on the exchange, Vísir reports.

The decision is motivated by a new privacy act which just took effect, as ICEX considers that the publication and distribution of the list as it is currently done does not meet requirements imposed by the legislation. Registered companies were informed of ICEX’s decision by email and were refunded half of their annual fees due to the changes.

Páll Harðarson, CEO of ICEX, said in a conversation with Fréttablaðið that the companies themselves may continue to publish the lists on their websites, but the approval of the relevant shareholders is required. “They can take the initiative themselves if demand from investors and the willingness of shareholders is at hand,” Páll stated.

Óli Björn Kárason, chairman of the Parliamentary Economic Affairs and Trade Committee, wrote if the new privacy act reduces transparency in the stock market, it works against healthy business practices. “It took decades to fight for the country’s largest companies to publish their shareholders list. Hörður Sigurgestsson, then-CEO of Eimskip, broke the ice,” Óli wrote in a Facebook post. “A healthy and strong stock market is important and a prerequisite of that is the rule of trust. And trust is not obtained unless transparency is guaranteed.”

Páll stated that information about transactions will otherwise be circulated in a similar manner to foreign stock markets. Financially-invested parties will continue to receive notice when company shares exceed certain limits. The information is published in accordance with the Securities Transactions Act. “This kind of information is published in order for the market to be informed of the movements and transactions of entities that have the greatest impact on the management of the companies. I believe that such disclosure is sufficient,” replied Paul when asked what ICEX’s stance was on the changes.

One corporation listed on the Iceland Stock Exchange, real estate company Reginn, has taken the list of twenty largest shareholders down from its website. It remains visible on other corporations’ websites at the time of publishing.

A Dry Norway Needs Iceland’s Hay

hay

Extensive droughts in Norway have led the country to turn to Iceland for much-needed hay, RÚV reports. As a result, the Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) is scrambling to provide the required information to their Norwegian counterpart.

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority imposes certain requirements on the Icelandic hay imports, among other things to prevent the spread of animal diseases. MAST must certify all the hay before it is exported. Managing Director Þorvaldur H. Þórðarson says the process has been a challenge as many of the organisation’s staff are on summer vacation.

Icelandic hay has previously been exported to Holland, Belgium, and the Faroe Islands.

Mariott to Open 150-Room Airport Hotel in 2019

Keflavík Airport

A new 150-room Courtyard by Mariott hotel will open next year at Keflavík International Airport, RÚVreports. Developers begin breaking ground today for the building.

The hotel is expected to open in the fall of 2019. Spokesmen for the project have stated that an increase in connecting flights through Keflavík warrants a large hotel with an internationally-recognised brand. Mariott is the largest hotel chain in the world with more than 6 500 properties in 127 countries and territories around the world.

The hotel will be located on Reykjanesbraut (Route 41) next to the airport. Full funding for the project has already been acquired.

Icelandic Oysters Coming to Reykjavík Restaurants

The first-ever oysters farmed in Icelandic waters will be on the local market shortly, RÚV reports. An experiment with oyster farming which began five years ago near Húsavík, North Iceland, is finally bearing fruit. The oysters will be the star of the menu at a new restaurant opening in Reykjavík this fall.

Oysters have never been farmed so far north anywhere in the world, but they seem to have flourished well despite the cold of Iceland’s waters. The location has other benefits as well: the oysters can be eaten straight from the sea. “In most other places they have to go to a purification plant and be there for three days in chlorinated sea water so they are suitable for human consumption. But that’s not necessary here in Icelandic waters,” says Kristján Phillips, CEO of Víkurskel who is behind the project.

The cold water does, however, slow down the oysters’ growth – at the Húsavík farm, the shellfish take four years to grow big enough for consumption, much longer than most oysters farmed abroad. “But you get a better product from allowing them to grow slowly,” Kristján remarks.

Icelandic chef and restaurateur Hrefna Sætran says the new Icelandic product is very different from other oysters. “Oysters are classified in A, B, and C classes. And usually the oysters are around B-C that we are eating, from France and such. But these oysters are A oysters, meaning they are very clean and very fresh,” Hrefna explains. Hrefna is behind The Shellfish Market, a restaurant opening soon in Reykjavík which will be the first to serve up the oysters.

With the oysters on their way to Icelandic tables, Kristján hopes to increase production and staff at Víkarskel shortly. “We are going to try to have 300 000 units a year,” he asserts. “Three to five hundred thousand.”