19 Tons of Garbage Collected From Beaches

Just over nineteen tons of garbage were collected from Icelandic beaches in the last two weeks, as part of the Nordic Coastal Clean-Up Day. It is believed that around 80% of the garbage comes from the fishing industry.

The initiative, overseen by the Environment Agency of Iceland, focused on beaches and shorelines on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, the Hópsnes peninsula near the Southwestern town of Grindavík, and Hornafjörður in Southeast Iceland. The Nordic Coastal Clean-Up Day is a collaborative project of environmental organizations from the Nordic countries. The day itself took place on May 6 in Iceland and is a part of the Hreinsum Ísland (Let’s Clean Iceland) initiative, spearheaded by the Icelandic Environment Association and Blái Herinn (The Blue army). The public can access info about the cleanups and also registers their own clean up in a special map where all the cleanup data is collected.

This is the second year in a row that Snæfellsnes has participated in the Nordic Beach Cleaning Day. Four different locations were cleaned on the peninsula, with as many as 40 volunteers taking part in efforts in the town of Stykkishölmur and anywhere from a dozen to 30 participants in other locations. Grundafjördúr mayor Björg Ágústsdóttir said the weather was beautiful for the volunteer effort.

“The amount never surprises me. I know there’s one ton of garbage per kilometre in Icelandic beaches, it doesn’t matter where you look,” said Tómas J. Knútsson, head of the Blái Herinn organization. “If we’re far away from settlements, the trash is about 80% fishing gear and 20% other forms of trash, which could have drifted from land or thrown overboard.” Closer to settlements, there’s more of household refuse. “Luckily, public interest is increasing, and we’re seeing more folks taking matters into their own hands in their hometown. For me, that’s the biggest positive,” said Tómas.

Record Number of Birds Tagged in Iceland in 2018

In 2018, 21,648 birds belonging to 83 different species were tagged for research purposes in Iceland. It’s an annual record for the country, which has been tagging birds for 98 years. The Icelandic Institute of Natural History released a report on bird banding, or ringing in 2018, which gives fascinating insight into birds’ international travels.

Since 1921, 740,524 birds have been tagged in Iceland, representing 158 different species. Half of the birds tagged in 2018 were redpolls (10,945). Other species that were dominant include the redwing (2,844), snow bunting (1,290), arctic tern (950), puffin (777), and eider duck (551). Two russet backed thrushes (Hylocichla ustulata) were tagged last year, a species which had never been marked before in Iceland.

More recoveries and readings

An unusually high number of recoveries and readings were received in 2018, and 4,579 were processed. Nearly 4,000 of these, however, were so-called “own-label controls,” or birds recaptured by their taggers. A total of 138 birds tagged in Iceland were found abroad. One redpoll tagged in Akureyri, North Iceland was retrieved 1,729km (1,074mi) away later that year in Skagen, Denmark. Others were found even farther from the location where they were tagged. Three whimbrels were recovered 3,880-5,770km (2,411-3,585mi) away from their tagging location. One of these was found in Guinea-Bissau 52 days after being tagged in Iceland. One common gull which was tagged at Akureyri airport in 2016 was retrieved twice in Massachusetts in 2017 and 2018, 4,111km (2,554mi) away. A total of 88 birds with foreign tags were also recovered in Iceland last year, of which 80 had been tagged in the British Isles.

Age records broken

Many of the birds recovered broke known age records. A manx shearwater which was marked as an adult in 1991 on the Westman Islands was retrieved in the same place in 2017, 26 years later. The bird was then at least 28 years old. A greylag goose marked in 2000 near Blönduós, North Iceland, was found dead in the fall of 2017, then 17 and a half years old. A white-tailed eagle marked as a nestling in Snæfellsnes, West Iceland in 1993 was found dying in January 2018, the 24 and a half years old. The eagle was given medical attention and released back into the wild.

Iceland and China Facilitate Student Exchange

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir China meeting

The Chinese and Icelandic Ministers of Culture have signed a landmark agreement to mutually recognise university studies between the two countries. Iceland’s Minister of Culture and Education Lilja Alfreðsdóttir says the agreement will facilitate university student exchange between the two countries.
Lilja met China’s Minister of Culture Chen Baosheng in Beijing today, where they discussed increased cooperation between the countries in the field of education, among other issues. “This agreement marks a turning point for both Icelandic and Chinese students,” Lilja stated. “The agreement will help to greatly facilitate student exchange between the countries and I hope that more students from both countries will look at the options available in Icelandic and Chinese universities.”

To strengthen existing agreements and language education

The University of Iceland already has student exchange agreements with 15 universities in China. More than 30 Chinese students are currently studying in Iceland, and roughly the same number of Icelanders study in China each year. Chinese language courses are sought after at the University of Iceland, while Icelandic has been taught at the Beijing International Studies University since 2006.

China has made similar agreements with more than 50 other countries, including the other Nordic countries.