Greylag Geese Hunting Banned in Iceland

grey goose hunting

Since the start of this year, it has been illegal to hunt greylag geese in Iceland, RÚV reports. The change is due to amendments to an international agreement on the protection of migrating wetland birds, to which Iceland is a party. The Icelandic Farmers’ Association (Bændasamtökin) has requested for the Icelandic government to lift the ban during the autumn season so farmers can protect their pastureland and grain fields from the geese.

Hunting of greylag geese has generally been permitted in Iceland between August 20 and March 15, and many farmers have used hunting quota to protect their cultivated land from geese. Most hunting is done in the fall, so the ban has not had much of an impact as of yet.

Counts show a decrease in greylag geese

In October 2021, Icelandic hunting association Skotvís reported a drop in greylag goose numbers in the country over the preceding decade. The Icelandic population of the bird had reached a high point in 2011, numbering some 112,000 birds, but figures from 2020 indicated that there were just around 60,000 individuals of the species remaining. The cause of the decrease is not known. At the time, hunters were encouraged to aim their barrels at pink-footed geese instead, whose population was thriving.

Geese impact grain harvest

Both greylag geese and pink-footed geese love a fresh, green snack, and thus they negatively impact grain harvests in Iceland as well as the cultivation of pastureland for livestock. Björn Halldórsson, a farmer in Vopnafjörður, Northeast Iceland, says the geese chomp on fields both in spring and fall. The Farmers’ Association has called on the government to introduce countermeasures to the hunting ban to protect grain harvests and pastureland, especially as the government has a stated aim of increasing grain production in Iceland.

Representatives of the Ministry for the Environment, Energy, and Climate told RÚV a hunting policy is in the works that will likely be ready before this autumn.

A Challenge to Provide Equal Access to Education for Immigrants

school children

There are 50 refugee children in Iceland that are not attending school as they are still waiting to receive school placements, including 20 children who have completed the required preparatory process. Minister of Education and Children Ásmundur Einar Daðason said the process to place refugee children in schools has gone well overall considering the level of strain on the system. He added that Icelandic society must do more to ensure all children of foreign origin have equal access to education and job opportunities as native Icelanders.

Housing impacts schooling for refugees

Most of the refugee children who have yet to be placed in schools in Iceland have been waiting since November of last year. “I think that everyone is doing their best to make it happen as fast as possible, but it’s very clear there’s been a lot of strain on our system,” Ásmundur Daði stated.

The Minister explained the process in an interview on Rás 2 this morning. “Just to go over it briefly, when a family comes here, it’s the Directorate of Labour that sees to these issues and sends a request to schools, the family has to undergo a medical examination which takes some time, then they will be placed in temporary housing before they receive permanent housing […] that process takes a certain amount of time, and there’s been a lot of strain on the municipalities where this temporary housing is. And it’s been a challenge to get families into permanent housing.”

While it would be ideal to place children in school sooner following their arrival, Ásmundur Einar stated that there have been cases where refugee children have moved schools twice within six weeks due to changes from temporary to permanent housing, for example. Such moves are not ideal either, he pointed out.

Huge influx of children of foreign origin requires systemic changes

Ásmundur Einar stated it was not only refugee children causing strain on the educational system, but the dramatic increase of children of foreign origin in general. Between 1996 and 2022, the number of children of foreign origin in the school system increased 23 times over, to make up 11% of students today. The Minister says this proportion will only increase and the government is working on ways to improve the reception of children of foreign origin into the school system.

Asked about the possibility of setting up special schools for refugee children waiting for permanent placements, Ásmundur Einar stated such a move has been considered. “But it would need to be a holistic decision, not just for children from Ukraine and Venezuela or Syria, but for children of foreign origin. Do we want them to go to a special program to start with where they’re just learning Icelandic for a few months, participating maybe in social activities as well, but not have only children from Ukraine doing that, because we want them to go into the general school system and participate in society here.”

Immigrants and their children don’t have the same opportunities

The Minister pointed out that the representation of immigrants within Icelandic institutions is not proportional to their numbers within Icelandic society, which is over 15%. “The challenge is how do we help these children to reach the same level of success as the rest of us in Icelandic society. There should be 15 MPs of foreign origin, there should be 2-3 ministers of foreign origin. These people are not getting the same opportunities as the rest of us.”

Within the school system, children of foreign origin reportedly achieve lower grades than native Icelandic students, are more likely to drop out and less likely to attend higher education. Children of foreign origin also show less participation in sports and recreational activities. “This is a cause for concern in the long term. We need to think as a society, what can we do differently?”

For those who argue that the cost of educating children or teaching them Icelandic is high, the Minister points out that immigrants coming into the system and going straight to the labour market are individuals the country has not had to invest in, in terms of their education.

Beloved Diego Reappears in Skeifan

diego cat skeifan

Cat lovers far and wide rejoiced yesterday when Diego, one of Iceland’s most famous cats, returned to his regular haunt in the Skeifan commercial district after a two-month absence. Diego was hit by a car last November and suffered serious injuries. He underwent surgery that same day, and fans and local businesses came together to cover the costs.

“Well, well, well, our guy (cat) is back to work, can you believe it?” posted a fan of Diego’s in a Facebook group dedicated to the furry feline, which boasts over 10,000 members. Diego has owners and a home, but spends most of his day in Skeifan, where he is often spotted lounging on a pile of printer paper in stationery store A4, following his nose into Domino’s Pizza, or welcoming visitors to Hagkaup grocery store. All three of the aforementioned businesses contributed to the fund for Diego’s medical costs following the accident, as did many of his fans and admirers.

Diego appears to be recovering well, though Facebook group member Gunný Eyborg Reynisdóttir wrote that staff members of A4 had to help him up to his usual spot on top of the pile of printer paper.