The Right to Bear Arms

I’m sitting in a hotel lobby, scribbling some last-minute notes in my notebook before the interview. I look up and notice Guðmundur Felix Grétarsson entering so I raise a hand to let him know I’m here. He waves back, and I get up to greet him. He shakes my hand, and I introduce myself before he points to a small room where we can chat undisturbed. Nothing about this exchange feels remarkable to me, but Guðmundur Felix has a different perspective.

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There and Back Again

“I’m eager to tell you about him.”  Everyone loves a good story, especially tales of adventure featuring a dogged, tenacious and sometimes tragic hero. In our day, thanks to more objective research and unflinching writing, heroes have lost much of their shine. Where we once unquestioningly celebrated aviator Charles Lindbergh, there is no denying that […]

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Where There’s Fire

“There is a whole range of events that might occur before, during, and after an eruption.” Dr. Sara Barsotti is the co-ordinator of Volcanic Hazards and operational geophysical monitoring at the IMO The eruptions on the Reykanes peninsula in 2021 and 2022 once again propelled Iceland’s volcanoes into the global consciousness. The last time this happened […]

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Reykjavík City Proposes New Fee for Winter Tires

winter tires reykjavík

The Environment Agency of Iceland has introduced a new plan for air quality in the capital region which would advise local authorities to introduce new fees for studded winter tires, reports Fréttablaðið.

According to air quality expert at the Environment Agency, Þorsteinn Jóhannsson, there now exists the political will to push through these new regulations, which would aim to both improve air quality by lessening the particulate matter in the air, and also lessen wear on the capital’s roads.

Some, according to Þorsteinn, have stated that this would amount to a further tax burden on Iceland’s already-struggling rural communities. Because of the conditions during winter, it is practically a requirement for Iceland’s rural population to use studded tires. Þorsteinn, however, has clarified that the fee would apply principally to the capital region, and that visitors with studded tires to the capital would pay a daily fee. In this way, it would function much like a parking fee.

According to Þorsteinn, investigations show that studded tires cause 20 to 40 times as much wear to roads as non-studded. Þorsteinn also notes that although the legal season for winter tires is from November 1 to April 14, there are already many studded tires on the road in Reykjavík.

Alexandra Briem, chairperson of the city council, has also stated her support for such a fee, noting that additional methods to reduce air pollution and wear on roads are needed.

More information on car ownership and regulations can be found at the Icelandic Automobile Association.

US Extends Deadline for Marine Mammal Bycatch Regulations

iceland fishing

In a recent announcement, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has extended the deadline for the implementation of regulations governing the import of seafood to the US.

Aimed at protecting endangered species and limiting the amount of unnecessary bycatch (what is unintentionally caught by net fishing, which can include seabirds, other species of fish, seals, dolphins, and even small whales), the regulations aim to limit the import of marine products from fisheries where marine mammals are caught. This has potentially large consequences for Iceland, the US being a major export market for Icelandic seafood.

The regulations were originally introduced in 2016 and gave exporting nations a 5-year period to comply with the new US regulations. However, this grace period was extended by a year, and then further delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more: Can Iceland Save its Seals Without Hurting its Fishermen?

Notably, Iceland lost its Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification in 2018 due to the large number of bycatch produced by Icelandic lumpfish fishing. Lumpfish generally stick near the shore and are thus safe from larger trawlers. This fish, prized for its roe, is still fished in small boats with nets. However, net fishing also produces large amounts of unwanted bycatch.

Although Iceland has taken steps in recent years to minimizing the environmental impact of net fishing, it is a complicated situation for Icelandic fishermen, as it is generally the small boat fishermen who will be under the most pressure from the current regulations.

Iceland’s small boat fishermen have already been sidelined in many ways by the current quota system. Although the bycatch problem is indeed important, it leaves some wondering if the burden of environmental responsibility is being placed excessively on small, independent fishermen.