Whaling Company Might Have License Revoked


The whaling company Hvalur hf has not turned in a hunting record for the last couple of years. This could lead to the company losing its licence to whale, which was recently re-issued for the next five years. The company does not intend to whale this year, in 2019. Hvalur hf. received a whaling permit valid from 2019 through 2023 yesterday from the Ministry of Industries and Innovation.

The ministry asked for inspection and comments from both the Directorate of Fisheries and the Marine Research Institue before handing out the renewed permit. The ministry specially asked the two institutions for comment on article 5 of the permit, which concerns the hunting record. The Directorate of Fisheries and Hvalur hf. have had a disagreement in the last couple of years regarding the turning in of the hunting records.

Detailed records not turned in
It is clearly stated in the newly released permit that a captain shall record the hunting in a journal, which will be provided by the Directorate of Fisheries. The hunting permit holder should then return the records on their own initiative, should the Directorate of Fisheries not already have asked for them. The journal should include information on ships, captains, shooters, hunting time, number of harpoons which hit finback whales, and the number of harpooned finback whales which get lost, to name a few of the items listed.

Eyþór Björnsson, director of the Directorate of Fisheries, says he has no explanations for why Hvalur hf. has not turned in the hunting record. The new rules should ensure that this doesn’t happen, while the Directorate of Fisheries can confirm that Hvalur hf. have not turned in any hunting records even though this new article is in place.

Kristján Loftsson, head of Hvalur hf., has not commented on the matter despite repeated attempts to reach out to him for comment, RÚV reports.

Authorities Look to Raise Fines for Off-Road Driving

The best weapon in the fight against off-road driving is education, according to Minister for the Environment, Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson. He says more people are conscious of the damage caused by off-road driving and wants to look into raising fines.
Evidence of off-road driving can take a long time to disappear naturally. Nature lovers have resorted to fixing damage where they can but if the vegetation is damaged, that can be impossible to fix. Off-road driving is a growing problem in Iceland, as travellers disregard laws. Recently, a Russian social media influencer bragged about his off-road driving. He was prosecuted, however, and had to pay a hefty fine.

This summer, damages have been discovered when mountain roads were opened again for the season. Recently, the Environment agency reported off-road driving in the geothermal area by Sogin in the Reykjanes nature reserve to the police but the tracks will be wiped out in the next few days.
Government agencies put a lot of work into stopping off-road driving, according to Guðmundur Ingi. “I believe education is our main weapon when it comes to off-road driving. But there are also rules and the nature conservation law states that off-road driving is subject to fines, and also that vehicles can be impounded and offenders can even face jail time.”

The police consider every individual case. The minimum fine for off-road driving is 350,000 ISK (€2,477, $2,781) and fines higher than that amount are often issued. “I believe that the basis of the rules is good. It may be that we should raise the fines, and that’s something which I’m very ready to inspect,” minister Guðmundur continued.

The task of educating drivers is mostly handled by rangers. 200 million ISK (€1.4m, $1.58m) were added to the budget for land protection this year, and an extra 300 million ISK (€2.11m, $2.37m) of funds will go towards the cause next year.

Authorities charged individuals for 40 instances of off-road driving in 2018. “Truth be told, the overall management of this matter has improved in the last 5 or 10 years. Both the police along with search and rescue squads, which have started to be more prevalent in the highlands. So rangers, search and rescue teams, and the police are collaborating well in this field. It’s an infinite task which we will just have to continue to fight,” Guðmundur said.

Head to the website of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, www.road.is, for further information on road conditions and what is considered off-road driving.

Attempts to Make Court of Appeal Fully Operational Unsuccessful

In late June, the Judicial Administration tried unsuccessfully to react to what they refer to as an emergency situation in the Court of Appeal, RÚV reports. Four out of the court’s 15 judges haven’t participated in court’s procedures since mid-March when the European Court of Human Rights declared the appointment of these four judges illegal. Since the court isn’t fully occupied, court process times are increasing and appealed cases are piling up.

European Court of Human Rights declares the appointment of judges illegal 

The Judicial Agency sought to get the contested judges to go on paid leave until the end of the year. This would allow them to appoint new judges to replace them, making the court fully operational. Three out of four did not request the leave at this moment and the fourth said they would let their position be known shortly. A number of cases await the court and it is estimated that around 500 cases will have amassed on the court’s agenda by the end of the year.

The European Court of Human Rights won’t decide until September 9 at the earliest if the court’s Grand Chamber Panel will review the case. A month ago, The Ministry of Justice asked the president of the Court of Appeal how the court would be impacted if four of the judges were out of commission, how the judges would react if the case would be reviewed and also if it wasn’t. Hervör Þorcvaldsdóttir, president of the Court of Appeal, replied June 24 that the four contested judges of the Court of Appeal would like to resume their positions if the case were to be reviewed by the Grand Chamber. The answer also included that the court process time would continue to increase if the court wasn’t fully occupied. According to the Court of Appeal’s office manager, the situation will soon be grave, estimating that 482 unprocessed cases will have accrued by the end of the year.

If the Grand Chamber reviews the case, the result can be expected by the end of next year. Action must be taken in order to make sure the Court of Appeal is fully occupied, either to appoint judges for a longer period or to appoint new ones. Both methods will require an amendment to the law. To react to the emergency, the judicial Administration suggested that additional judges would be appointed from the end of summer vacations to the end of the year. No amendment would be needed but the four judges would have to request paid leave, something they can’t be ordered to do. The president and the director of the Judicial Administration met with the four judges June 25. Three of the judges did not request paid leave at that moment and the fourth said they would let their position be known shortly.