Látrabjarg Bird Cliff to Be Protected

The Environment Agency of Iceland has presented a proposal for the protection of the Látrabjarg bird cliffs in the Westfjords. The agency has been working on the proposal since 2011 in collaboration with landowners, local authorities, and other stakeholders and is now seeking comments on it from the public.

One of Europe’s biggest bird cliffs, Látrabjarg is the westernmost point in Iceland. A staggering number of seabirds nest there every year, including the largest population of razorbills in the world, with 160,968 nesting pairs. Guillemots (225,912 pairs), thick-billed murres (118,034), fulmars (99,894 pairs), puffins (50,00 pairs), kittiwakes (32,028 pairs) also nest along Látrabjarg.

The proposed boundaries for the Látrabjarg preserve would enclose an area of 2,340 hectares (around 9 sq mi; 23.4 sq km). In addition to protecting the cliffs themselves, the preserve would extend one kilometre out to sea, with the intention of safeguarding the surrounding marine environment as well.

The proposed boundaries of the Látrabjarg Nature Reserve.

Per the written proposal, the primary goal of designating Látrabjarg a protected area is to “protect the unique and diverse ecosystem of the area and habitat for birds, especially the seabird nesting site. The protected status is simultaneously intended to protect and maintain the natural condition [of the site] as well as the magnificent landscape from sea level all the way up to the highest point of one of the North Atlantic’s largest bird cliffs.”

Granting the cliffs protected status is also intended to protect its cultural heritage, ensure that it continues to be monitored and studied by scientists, and redouble educational outreach related to its rich bird life.

The deadline for submitting comments on the proposal is June 18, 2019. They can be submitted by email at [email protected] or by post to the Environment Agency of Iceland, Suðurlandsbraut 24, 108 Reykjavík.

Iceland Cosigns Statement Against Brutal, Discriminatory Law in Brunei

Iceland is one of thirty-six countries to cosign a statement urging the government of Brunei to revoke changes to its penal code which legalize a range of violent and brutal punishments for acts such as robbery, rape, adultery and sexual conduct with a same-sex partner. RÚV reports that all of the cosignatories are part of the Equal Rights Commission, an intergovernmental body “dedicated to the protection of the rights of LGBTI people.”

“The undersigned members of the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC) express profound dismay at the decision of Brunei to fully implement its revised Penal Code,” reads the statement, which was published on the Canadian government’s website. “As part of the full implementation which became effective on April 3, 2019, provisions have been introduced prescribing a range of penalties including amputation of limbs, whipping and stoning to death for specific acts identified as offences in the Code.”

“These extreme penalties raise serious concerns in light of Brunei’s international human rights obligations and commitments,” the statement continues. “They also have a detrimental impact on a number of vulnerable groups in Brunei, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, women and children.”

Commenting on Brunei’s new penalties, Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, wrote that “[i]t’s sad that to this day, LGBTQ people are subjected to such persecution at the hands of their governments…The rights of LGBTQ people are a fundamental part of Iceland’s human rights policy and we put a great deal of emphasis on them in our work with the Human Rights Commission. These rights aren’t relative, but stand always, everywhere. Which is why we cannot and may not let the government in Brunei’s decision pass without reproof.”

Shortage of ‘First Class Icelandic Potatoes’ Say Grocers

The Icelandic Federation of Trade is calling for a suspension of duties on potatoes so that potatoes grown abroad can be imported at an acceptable cost to local consumers. RÚV reports that Iceland’s current potato crop suffered after a wet and cold summer last year. As such, locally-grown potatoes are not up to their usual standard and grocers and produce importers want to see customs duties adjusted accordingly.

“We have plenty of potatoes,” Gréta María Grétarsdóttir, CEO of the Krónan supermarket chain remarked. “But the quality of Icelandic potatoes is not as good as Icelanders are accustomed to…these are not the first class Icelandic potatoes that Icelanders are used to getting.”

 

Imported potatoes “30% more expensive than they need to be”

Guðmundur Marteinsson, CEO of the Bónus supermarket chain, echoed this sentiment, telling RÚV that he finds it strange that import duties on potatoes have not been waived for the time being, given that even the Sales Association of Vegetable Farmers (SFG) has support the idea.

In an announcement on its website, the Icelandic Federation of Trade stated that the Ministry of Industries and Innovation has not complied with requests from importers to suspend custom duties. The organization says this is to the detriment of consumers because imported potatoes will be more expensive. “It isn’t possible to import potatoes unless the duties are cancelled,” said Guðmundur. “We started complaining three weeks ago.”

“When this situation arises, it often happens that customs duties are lifted,” explained Gréta María. “But not now. As such, foreign potatoes are 30% more expensive than they need to be.”

 

No Shortage of Potatoes

By law, the Advisory Committee on the Import and Export of Agricultural Products, which is part of the Ministry for Industries, submits proposals to the minister regarding suspensions of custom duties. This happens, for instance, when there is a shortage of a specific agricultural product on the domestic market. Per the provisions of the laws governing agricultural products, this can only happen when two leading distributors and two key producers cannot keep up with demand. The committee says, however, that no such shortage exists. The situation is being closely monitored, they say, and new data on the local potato crop will be obtained on April 23.

“It’s very strange because SFG’s largest retailer has sent a letter to the committee in which it urges for tolls to be cancelled because there are not enough potatoes of an acceptable quality,” said Guðmundur. “There aren’t enough, but there are some. We’re scraping together what we can for the weekend,” he said, referring to the Easter holiday this week. “That’s where we’re at.”

Ólafur Stephensen, the CEO of The Icelandic Federation of Trade, had stronger words for the committee. “Saying that there’s no impending shortage is preposterous,” he wrote in the published announcement. “And it means that importers are losing the precious time it takes to order and bring into the country products that meet consumer demand.”

Long-Term Parking at Airport Completely Full Over Easter

The long-term parking lots at the Keflavík Airport are at full capacity for the third Easter holiday in a row. RÚV reports that the airport’s long-term parking lots closed just before 5:00 PM on Wednesday afternoon because all of the 2,600 on-site parking spaces had been filled.

The Easter holiday is a very popular time for Icelanders to travel, both within the country and abroad. Isavia’s service manager, Gunnar Ingi Hafsteinsson, said that travelers are advised to book their long-term parking spots in advance of popular travel weekends. As of lunch time on Wednesday, 95% of the long-term lot was full. By comparison, on a normal day, only 50 – 60% of the airport’s long-term parking lot is booked.

At least two other companies offer their own valet service and offsite parking options close to the airport. However, it looks as though these companies also have fully booked up during the holiday season. For instance, Smart Parking, which has 400 parking spots, reported that its lot was fully booked until April 22. And as of Wednesday afternoon, it also looked likely that Base Parking, which has nearly 1,000 parking spots, would also fill to capacity this weekend.