Net Profit

In 2021, when a lower capelin quota was issued in Iceland than had been anticipated, Landsbankinn bank lowered its GDP growth forecast for the year from 3.4 to 3.3%. Capelin may be a little fish, but as a key food source for many other marine species, it makes a big impact on Iceland’s economy and ecology. Commercially, capelin is one of the most important fish stocks in Iceland, accounting for around 13% of export earnings. Only cod brings in more, and it bears pointing out that cod is also dependent on capelin, which may account for up to 40% of its total food. 

Stocks of capelin in Icelandic waters have been volatile, making it difficult to predict or plan fishing seasons. The fish have a short life cycle, procreating only once before their ultimate demise, which makes the stock vulnerable to overfishing and changes in the marine environment. In 2019 and 2020, in accordance with the recommendations of Iceland’s Marine Research Institute, no capelin quota was issued at all, while last year’s catch amounted to nearly 600,000 tonnes. In recent years, however, capelin catch has averaged around 350,000 tonnes annually. The bulk of the quota is caught during four weeks in spring.

Capelin is often described as the most ecologically important fish species in Icelandic waters. It is the main source of food for Atlantic cod (another commercially important species in Iceland), and is also a food source for whales, seals, squid, mackerel, and seabirds.

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Icelandic boats began fishing capelin in the late 1960s when herring stocks in Icelandic waters collapsed.

 

Net Profit

Capelin is a small forage fish belonging to the smelt family and is found in the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Arctic oceans. It is silver in colour and usually measures between 15-18 cm long [6-7 in].

Golli. A Brim ship in Akranes, West Iceland

About 80% of capelin caught in Iceland is used to produce fishmeal and oil, while a small amount (less than 20%) is used to produce roe for human consumption. The roe, called masago, is yellow in colour and is popularly used in sushi. 

Net Profit

Icelandic fishing boats caught some 477,000 tonnes of capelin last season, the full quota issued. This included around 20,000 tonnes of roe. The total value of the catch is estimated at around ISK 42-45 billion [$305 million, €280 million].

Up until the early 80s, Icelanders sometimes caught over a million tonnes of capelin in a single season. 

Net Profit

Despite being common in Icelandic fishing nets, capelin is not normally sold in local stores. Hólmgeir Einarsson, a seafood store owner in Reykjavík, decided to stock some this year and has so far sold over 200 kilos [440 lbs]. He says the primary purchasers have been immigrants, who are familiar with the fish from abroad. Some Reykjavík restaurants are also discovering this important fish.

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Icelandic capelin migrate seasonally. In spring and summer, they go north of the Icelandic mainland to feed in the plankton-rich waters between Greenland, Iceland, and Jan Mayen.

Net Profit

Due to rising sea temperatures, capelin has moved further north in search of colder waters. Young capelin now tend to dwell near and under the sea ice around Greenland, making stock sizes difficult to assess.

Climate change and changes in the ocean’s temperature have a direct effect on capelin behaviour. It’s one of the most direct effects of climate change Icelanders can expect in the coming years.

Net Profit

Tubs of roe ready for export.

Brim
Venus
Akranes
loðnuhrogn

The capelin season takes place in February and March. The window to catch roe-filled capelin before it spawns is even shorter, only around 20-25 days. In that time, a sailor on a capelin fishing boat can expect to earn an Icelandic worker’s annual salary. That is, if capelin catch quotas, and the weather, are favourable that year.

Net Profit

The capelin season takes place in February and March. The window to catch roe-filled capelin before it spawns is even shorter, only around 20-25 days. In that time, a sailor on a capelin fishing boat can expect to earn an Icelandic worker’s annual salary. That is, if capelin catch quotas, and the weather, are favourable that year.

Ólafur Örn Ólafsson, restaurateur at Brút in the Reykjavík city centre, occasionally serves roe-filled capelin.

Full Circle

Despite Iceland’s image as a leader in green technologies, per capita household waste has been steadily trending upwards in the country. In 2009, the average Icelandic household produced just above 400 kg [882 lbs] of waste annually. As of 2021, Icelandic households were producing 667 kg [1,470 lbs] of waste annually, compared to the EU […]

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To the Manor Born

The story of the Baron

of Hvítárvellir

A bright, mild, late-summer Sunday greeted the festive locals in the Borgarfjörður region of western Iceland who flocked from far and wide to take part in the Þjóðminningardagur, National Heritage Day, in early August 1898. The popular festival featured a variety of events, including traditional sporting competitions, poetry readings, speeches by noted Icelanders and, perhaps most remarkably, waltzes danced to mechanical music. To the loud, clanging machine-driven tune of a curious large wind-up music box called a calliope, couples young and old swayed and danced joyfully to Johann Strauss’ Radetzky’s March, a catchy waltz tune popular to this day. Other favourites included Hip Hip Hurrah March and Die süßen kleinen Mägdelein.

Before the global dominance of Edison’s audio recordings that came to be known as records, this fascinating machine allowed popular music to be played to crowds in the same way we think of 19th-century street organ grinders. The mechanical wonder was generously loaned to the festival by a somewhat mysterious and clearly wealthy foreigner who had recently moved to Hvítárvellir, a nearby farm located on the banks of the mighty Hvítá river: the Baron Charles Francois Xavier de Gauldrée-Boilleau.

A fresh new breeze

Hvítárvellir was one of the finest and most productive Icelandic farms at the turn of the century, with many fertile acres of pastureland, dozens of dairy cows, hundreds of sheep, and access to the plentiful salmon in the Hvítá river. The estate was sold to the baron for the modern equivalent of nearly one million US dollars, an unheard-of price even for such a renowned estate. Apparently, he made no attempt to negotiate the price. At the baron’s behest, the farm immediately underwent extensive and costly modifications. In a matter of months, a new wooden building was constructed as living quarters for the farmhands, which was a huge improvement over the turf and stone huts in which most of them had grown up. 

Among the modifications the baron introduced were a wide range of new machines that were imported and employed, including a mechanical mower, a hay baler, and an odd device that was meant to flatten the bumpy land by tearing up frost tussocks – a familiar geographic feature of Icelandic pastureland. Farmhands’ wages were paid in cash, which was a rarity in those days. The baron demanded to be acknowledged with proper respect at all times; in his presence male farmhands were expected to doff their caps while women were meant to curtsy. The baron insisted on personally approving every hire because he believed he could determine the applicant’s trustworthiness simply by looking deeply in their eyes.

Baron Charles Gauldree Boilleau was a fascinating man and his brief stay in Iceland left a mark on Icelandic history, so much so that in 2004, he was the subject of a historical novel by Þórarinn Eldjárn. The locals were surprised and delighted when the esteemed Baron Bolló, as the locals dubbed him, showed up unannounced at the festival’s reception tent, dressed in exquisite riding gear and casually smoking a Russian cigarette. He was accompanied by a good-looking young man in a suit and tie who he introduced as his cousin, Richard Lechner, whom the locals soon began referring to as the count for no other reason than he was associated with the baron. The foreign pair spoke together in German but made praiseworthy efforts to speak to the festival officials in Icelandic. The dashing foreigner with the lofty noble title asked if he might be permitted to partake in their festivities, which would be completely unprecedented and was immediately approved. Curiosity piqued as the baron registered for the annual horse race. 

A noble visitor

Foreigners, often wealthy Englishmen, were not unknown in West Iceland at the time but were generally considered eccentric if not arrogant, mostly keeping to themselves and ignoring the locals. That such a notable figure as a baron would deign to join the Icelanders in their local gala and even compete in a horse race was welcomed with giddy anticipation. 

His background and reasons for moving to Iceland were largely unknown, but the charming baron, who had become their neighbour just weeks before, had already garnered a reputation for being a progressive and cultured man of vision and conviction. He expertly mounted his beautiful stallion and trotted in perfect tact to the starting line, deftly demonstrating his riding prowess. Hundreds of dismayed onlookers watched as the baron was first to cross the finish line and became the horse race’s undisputed winner. While most cheered the victorious foreigner, some chagrined locals were understandably humiliated, grumbling that the wealthy foreigner must have fed his horse some special foreign fodder to defeat them so handily.

As Baron Gaudrée-Boilleau accepted his award for placing first in the horse race, speculation about just who this man was and where he came from was on everyone’s lips. He was thought to be French based on his name and general appearance, but he had come to Iceland from the Bavarian city of Munich and spoke flawless German with his so-called cousin, Richard. Letters addressed to him, however, came regularly from the United States, which led some to assume he must be American. According to the farmers who sold him Hvítárvellir farm, he spoke English with a distinctive upper-class accent, sounding like the British lords who sometimes fished the Hvítá river. It was rumoured that one time a young woman who had been working as a farm hand at Hvítárvellir walked up to him and impudently asked; “Who are you actually? And why did you come here?” The baron stared at her momentarily, then replied in clear and correct Icelandic: “Don’t you know it is rude to ask personal questions?” 

Only a few months earlier, to wide acclaim, the baron had made his first public appearance. It was a sunny evening in late May 1898, and a concert was held to inaugurate Reykjavík’s recently completed Iðnaðarhús, Craftsmen’s Hall, a relatively large wooden building that serves as a theatre, meeting place and concert hall. Iðnó, built on the banks of the city’s lake, Tjörnin, still stands to this day. The youthful baron proved to be an exceptionally talented cellist. He was also a proficient pianist and an accomplished composer. After promising his local acquaintance, the writer Benedikt Gröndal, to perform at the auspicious Reykjavík Music Association event to a packed audience of some 200 Icelanders, the baron had turned up with a 250-year-old Cappa di Saluzzo cello, an instrument which was completely unfamiliar to the average Icelander at the time. His masterful playing of the “knee-fiddle” or hnéfiðla, as it was reported in the following day’s newspapers, reportedly left music-deprived Icelanders astounded, calling for encore after encore. To the delight of the audience, the baron then improvised expertly with an a cappella singing group, which he clearly enjoyed. When asked by a fan whether he would be willing to perform regularly, he answered that he was actually giving up his music career, but he would be willing to play occasionally for charity. His new passion, he said, with a grin but without any touch of irony, was to become an Icelandic farmer.

Það er strok í honum – He’s a flighty one

Just why the baron chose to become a farmer in Iceland of all places was not clear to anyone. With all his impressive heritage and fine skills, he was used to a wealthy cosmopolitan lifestyle in America and Europe. Apart from studying music for years in Munich, the baron had been cruising frequently to London or New York or spending time in places such as Algiers when not at his family homes in Paris or on the Italian Riviera. Already fluent in seven languages, the baron managed to learn Icelandic with remarkable speed. He came from a privileged background: he was the son of a wealthy French diplomat and had been educated at expensive English boarding schools. His more practically-minded brothers in America were as worried about him as they were mystified, writing: “He was flying high after arriving in Iceland, which made us happy, as we had been following him between hope and fear. On the other hand, we knew very well how quickly things could change for our brother. We knew of his plan [to move to Iceland], but we didn’t take it too seriously. We had hoped that our patience would be rewarded, and that Charles would realise what a pipedream this was but hope that he would somehow find happiness and peace in this absurd place.”

Farming in Iceland was not an especially profitable endeavour even at the best of times. It requires extensive knowledge and hard-won skills, as well as a certain disposition. It was not long before his farmhands and neighbours began to notice the baron’s odd behaviour, demonstrating inexplicable apathy and irrational carelessness on many occasions. When purchasing a horse, he would avoid wasting time with troublesome negotiating and simply ask the seller to name his price. In the middle of important farm projects, which would consume his attention for weeks on end, he would suddenly lose all interest, mount his horse, and ride away without a word of explanation. At other times, the baron would capriciously summon his expensive imported private steamship, which was docked nearby, and order it to sail him to Reykjavík where he owned a comfortable home on Laugavegur. Local farmers commented that the baron was like an untamed horse that would bolt, running off at the slightest distraction. And that the baron was “likely not wholly sane.”

When he decided it would be pleasant to stay in a luxurious tent with all the amenities on a nearby lake, the baron called together the various local Icelandic farmers who owned it and offered them triple the estimated value. After three days of hunkering in his tent while it rained continuously, he abruptly rode back to Hvítárvellir, abandoning his latest acquisition, never to return. In the summer months, the baron would practise his marksmanship with a pistol by shooting at golden plovers. He insisted on eating grilled salmon and mashed potatoes nearly every day. When one of his servants was heavily pregnant, the baron was so repulsed that he fired her immediately. Whether out of shyness or arrogance – and despite his language abilities – when the baron was approached in public he would invariably pretend not to understand and simply walk away.

After a few months of drab living at Hvítárvellir through the autumn and winter of 1898, the baron was bored. He saw business opportunities everywhere, claiming Reykjavík could double or triple in size with the right investment. It was then that he decided to take ever-bigger risks with his remaining money, taking short-term high interest loans when necessary. Looking to drive progress and change, he financed the construction of a hugely expensive modern concrete barn which was to house 50 milk cows and provide higher-quality dairy products to the citizens of Reykjavík. The unfortunate project was destined for failure. Locals did not know what to make of the baron’s bold innovation and baulked at buying milk from what they considered a foreign company. The barn’s construction alone cost three times its budget and the cows produced much less than anticipated. By the summer’s end the baron became depressed and fell seriously ill. Unable to even hold a pen, he was bedridden for months. Before the end of 1899, he was forced to sell the barn, his precious steamship, and various other properties at a tremendous loss in order to pay off his rising debts. 

Upon his recovery, he dismissed the bankruptcy of his dairy project as regrettable but insignificant; there were far greater rewards to be had which would dwarf the year’s losses. The baron’s new plan was to create a huge fishing company with nearly a dozen ships and a modern harbour. The required financing would flow in, he was sure, because it was obvious that Iceland needed to compete with the European fleets that had been exploiting Icelandic fishing grounds since the Middle Ages. All it would take was for the Icelandic Parliament to approve the new fishing company’s charter; nothing but a trifle, surely. Flush with fresh loans from local Icelanders, the optimistic baron set off by ship to London to raise the rest of the capital. Interest in the innovative plan was high and the baron saw no chance of failure. When the Parliament broached the issue in the summer of 1900, however, opponents pointed out that the baron was no Icelander. Discussion went on for months, but the charter’s approval never gained a parliamentary majority. The baron’s fishing company, like so many of his business ventures, was stillborn.


A tragic end

It was a cold winter evening in 1901, between Christmas and New Year’s, in London. On a regional passenger train from southeast London to Victoria Station, the normally uneventful journey was interrupted by the crack of a lone gunshot. The piercing report resonated in the confines of the narrow train carriage and briefly, a nervous silence ensued. The train’s two conductors, who had been checking tickets, quickly made their way toward the apparent origin of the shooting: the only first-class cabin with closed curtains. 

As the conductors cautiously opened the cabin door, their eyes were drawn to an irregular dark stain on the wall, just above an empty seat. Then, they caught sight of a well-dressed young man sprawled unnaturally on the floor, a dark, sleek pool of blood surrounding his head. He wore a gentleman’s high-collared white shirt with an ornate cravat and an elegant waistcoat. They stared wide-eyed at the gaping wound in the man’s head and the blood soaking his wavy brown hair. An antique revolver lay on the floor next to his lifeless hand, the last traces of gun smoke still drifting lazily from the single barrel. 

Speculation among the train’s passengers spread like leaves in a storm. Some suspected an armed robbery, perhaps gone terribly wrong, while others considered the possibility of a deliberate murder. Rumours abounded. Was it a crime of passion, a jealous lover’s revenge? 

Clad in tall dark-blue helmets and matching wool tunics adorned with brass buttons, a small contingent of London police arrived on the scene. Upon the detective’s first examination, there was little doubt that the young man in the blood-sodden, bespoke suit had taken his life, most likely in a moment of despair. A note of requests in the event of his death appeared to confirm that the fatal incident was no accident. The cartes de visite in his elegant but otherwise empty porte-monnaie identified him and his local address in Anerley, Southeast London as Baron Charles Francois Xavier De Gauldrée-Boilleau. The coroner’s brief forensic examination officially registered the death: “…killed himself whilst temporarily insane, shock and haemorrhage due to inflicting bullet wound to head from a revolver.” Due to the letter left in his coat, the police had no trouble in determining that the unfortunate man’s next of kin was a younger brother who apparently resided in the American city of Baltimore. The following day he was duly informed of his older brother’s tragic death via transatlantic telegram. 

In the end, Baron Charles Gauldrée-Boilleau died penniless on an English train by his own hand. His many business ventures were certainly progressive and innovative. Had he chosen to live in a more modern country such as America or France, he might well have been much more successful. Icelanders were quite simply unreceptive to the forward-thinking ideas that the baron was so eager to establish, in part due to the fact that he was assumed by some prejudiced Icelanders to be just another untrustworthy, money-grubbing foreigner. His stay in Iceland was brief, only a couple of years at the turn of the 20th century, but the concrete barn that he built still stands and today houses a convenience store. He left an indelible mark on the emerging city of Reykjavík and in belated recognition of his achievements, charming Barónstígur street in Reykjavík was named in his honour. 


A 19th Century Nobleman in the undeveloped and Isolated Far North

Iceland was a primitive, underdeveloped society at the turn of the 20th century. Although Iceland had been granted home rule in 1874, it was still very much under the control of the Danish Crown, and full independence was decades away. Reykjavik was little more than a foul-smelling fishing village lacking public sanitation, a proper harbour and paved roads. Fewer than 80,000 people lived in the entire country. Vistarbandið, or bonded labour in the manner of serfdom, was not completely abolished in Iceland until 1900. Due to this profoundly unfair tradition, landless farm hands were legally prevented from leaving the farms where they were employed without the permission of the owner, consigning some 25% of the population to abuse and drudgery and with little chance of a better life. As bad as conditions were for men, women typically earned 1/3 to 1/2 of their male counterparts’ wages. Poor infrastructure and impoverished living conditions were grudgingly accepted as facts of life, but increasing awareness of the world beyond Iceland beckoned; nearly a quarter of the beleaguered population had abandoned the meagre farms and migrated to North America starting in the mid-19th century, leaving much of the country depopulated. It is generally considered that the emigres’ departure probably prevented mass starvation.

What is Iceland’s Energy Mix?

green energy iceland

Of all stationary energy produced in Iceland, some 70% is hydroelectric and 30% is geothermal, with a negligible but growing percentage of wind power, at .03%. Fossil fuels accounted for .01% of all energy produced in Iceland in 2021.

Iceland has become well-known for its ability to produce green energy relatively cheaply and efficiently. However, this picture has grown somewhat more complicated in recent years with Iceland’s participation in the international carbon credit market.

Read more: Iceland to Buy Emission Allowances

In figures recently released by the National Energy Authority on 2021 energy usage in Iceland, it has come to light that 63% of energy used in Iceland was produced by fossil fuel, 24% by nuclear power, and only 13% by renewable energy sources. Although the actual electricity flowing into Icelandic homes and businesses is still green, the energy credit market allows foreign companies to “buy” Icelandic green energy. In this way, consumers in Europe might choose to buy green certificates of origin for their energy, even though the energy actually powering their house is sourced from a coal plant.

This market dynamic has led to a curious situation: although the electricity flowing into Icelandic homes and businesses is 100% renewable in origin, Icelandic consumers are now being made to pay extra for green energy certification. Some 90% of energy produced in Iceland is now sold on renewable energy credit markets.

For those interested in Iceland’s energy production, you may want to read more at the National Energy Authority of Iceland.

How did Barónstígur get its name? Was there ever nobility in Iceland?

barónstígur reykjavík

Before Iceland lost its independence to Norway in the 13th century, the Icelandic Commonwealth (as the stateless society in Iceland since the time of settlement is often called) could be described as fairly egalitarian. There were powerful, rich chieftains and plenty of poor farmers, but unlike continental Europe at the time, these inequalities were not legally codified in feudal property relations.

Indeed, one of the founding myths of the settlement of Iceland is that many Norwegians in the 9th century were fleeing a tyrannical king, Haraldur Fairhair of Norway.

So the observant visitor to Reykjavík may be justified in raising their eyebrows at Barónstígur (Baron’s Way), a street in downtown Reykjavík that intersects Laugavegur.

The street is in fact named after an eccentric aristocrat, the Baron Charles Francois Xavier de Gauldrée-Boilleau, who lived in Iceland around the turn of the century.

His story is a rather unhappy one, filled with failed business ventures and bankruptcy. During his time in Iceland, he attempted to modernize the Icelandic fishing fleet, create a model farm at his manor by Hvítarvellir, and built a new dairy for the people of Reykjavík. Where he perceived Icelanders as a backward people who needed help modernizing, many Icelanders perceived him as a flighty and eccentric jack of all trades, but master of none. Following the failure of one of his endeavours, he likely took his own life on a trip to England in 1901.

The building constructed as Reykjavík’s new dairy still stands on the street now known as Barónstígur. Today, it houses a convenience store.

Read the whole story here.

The Quiet Game

FICTION The Quiet Game by Halla Þórlaug Óskarsdóttir I have twice been asked to stop screaming, both times in a hospital. The first time, my mom was dying. The second, my daughter was being born.  Both instances are shrouded in fog, like I was in some other world. The first time, it was my brother, […]

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Charges Dropped Against Footballer Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson

Footballer

Icelandic footballer Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson will not be charged with a criminal offence and has been cleared of all charges, the football website fotbolti.net reports. An investigation team collaborating with the Crown Prosecution Service has concluded that the available evidence does “not reach the threshold set out on the Code for Crown Prosecutors.”

Charges dropped after a near two-year investigation

A statement from the police in Manchester, published in an article on Fotbolti.net today, reveals that the former Everton midfielder and captain of the Icelandic football team Gylfi Þór Sigurðsson will face “no further action.” Gylfi was arrested in July 2021 on suspicion of sexual offences against a minor. He was released on bail shortly after his arrest but has not played a professional football match since then.

The investigation into the case was finally completed last January, which was when the police handed over the results of its investigation to the Office of the Crown Prosecutor in the UK. As previously noted, it was up to the prosecutor’s office to determine the next steps, i.e. whether charges would be filed in the case or whether they would be dropped. The decision has now been made to drop the case after almost two years. Iceland Review received a copy of the original statement from fotbolti.net:

“The 33-year-old man who was arrested in connection with an investigation opened in June 2021 will face no further action. The investigation team and Crown Prosecution Service have been working together and reached the decision that the evidence available at this time does not reach the threshold set out on (sic) the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

Greater Manchester Police is committed to investigating allegations to secure the best possible outcomes for all involved and will continue to work with partner agencies to ensure individuals are supported throughout investigations and beyond.”

Gylfi Þór was removed from the active roster for the Premier League team Everton and his contract was not renewed when it expired last summer. Gylfi has not played with the Icelandic Men’s National Team since his arrest. He has also been subject to a travel ban, which has prevented him from leaving the UK since his arrest.

This article will be updated.

Body Discovered Near Borgarnes, Investigation Underway

police station Hlemmur

A body was discovered on a beach not far from the town of Borgarnes, in West Iceland, yesterday, Vísir reports. The police will update the media as soon as more information is available.

An investigation underway

Yesterday evening, a passerby reported the discovery of a body to the police. According to the police authorities, the case is under investigation.

“We are looking into this discovery and awaiting results. When more information is available, we will begin by speaking to relatives,” Ásmundur Kristinn Ásmundsson, Assistant Chief of Police in West Iceland told Vísir.

Ásmundur stated that it was necessary to follow all legal procedures and to attain conclusive results regarding the person’s identity. The police will update the media as soon as the results of the investigation are available.

Global Price Reductions Must Be Passed on to Icelandic Consumers

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir

The Minister of Culture and Business Affairs has encouraged Icelandic petrol companies to do their part in the effort to curb inflation. The minister calls for the reduction in the price of fuel on the global market to be passed on to Icelandic consumers, RÚV reports.

More competition needed

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, the Minister of Culture and Business Affairs, maintains that it is urgent that the Icelandic petrol companies take part in the fight against inflation – and return price reductions on the global market to Icelandic consumers. According to the minister, the companies have not provided adequate explanations for price differences in Iceland and Denmark.

“The global inflation rate is falling because oil and energy prices are falling globally. And we demand similar price reductions in Iceland,” Lilja stated in an interview with RÚV. The minister pointed out, by gesturing towards data from the Competition Authority [and basic economic principles], that when the competition has increased, prices have fallen.

“Which tells us that vigorous competition is important. It must also be said that when you look at prices in Iceland and Denmark, the difference, in my opinion, is too great for the petrol companies to explain,” Lilja added. She encouraged petrol companies to participate in the fight against inflation.

“What I think is most important is that the price reduction that is taking place on the global market is passed on to Icelandic consumers. The ministry has been looking into this market, and the same hold for the Competition Authority, and we will, of course, continue to monitor this market. But I think it is very urgent that the petrol companies take this to heart,” Lilja concluded.

CEO of Skeljungur denies that prices have been kept high

In an interview yesterday, the Director of the Competition Authority (Sammkeppnisstofnun) argued that greater competition in Iceland would translate into lower petrol prices. The CEO of Skeljungur, Þórður Guðjónsson, denied the claim that the petrol companies have been keeping prices unreasonably high:

“Iceland is not a big country,” Þórður told RÚV, “and I think it’s certainly inaccurate to speak of a kind of multi-competition, which is the antonym of oligopoly. There are four companies that import petrol in Iceland. There are five companies that sell petrol at their gas stations. So I think there is a decent competition there.”

When asked if the companies were still keeping the prices abnormally high, Þórður responded in the negative: “No, I wouldn’t say so.”

As noted by RÚV, the companies that import petrol to Iceland are Skeljungur, N1, Olís, and Atlantsolía. Þórður stated that it was unfair to compare price trends of petrol in Iceland with global market prices for crude oil as there are no oil refineries in Iceland:

“No one imports crude oil into Iceland, for there are no oil refineries in Iceland. We need to import refined petroleum products. These petroleum products come from Norway – from Mongstad in Norway – where Equinor is the only supplier in Iceland; it has a pretty good hold on the country. There is no possibility for us, the petrol companies, to get oil from anywhere else. All of us have to buy separately, as competition does not allow joint purchases of fuel, which would strengthen our position in the importation of fuel.”

As to Lilja’s point about price differences between Iceland and Denmark, Guðjón gestured towards the fact that there are oil refineries in Denmark, which allows Denmark to purchase crude oil.

Deep North Episode 21: A New Leash on Life

icelandic sheepdog

We’re on our way to meet a national pageant winner, who after a thorough examination by a qualified judge was selected as the most beautiful in all the land. The pageant winner is perhaps not quite what you would expect, however. Firstly, he’s male. Secondly, he’s three years old. Thirdly, he’s covered in a thick coat of luxurious fur. His name is Einir, and he’s an Icelandic sheepdog.

Read the full story here.