Where is Iceland?

map iceland

Iceland is a North Atlantic island nation located between Greenland and Norway. The country is situated at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, and its closest neighbours are Greenland to the west and the Faroe Islands to the southeast. Iceland’s total land area is 103,000 square kilometres, making it the 18th largest island in the world.

Iceland is known for its diverse and dramatic geography, which includes volcanic landscapes, glaciers, hot springs, and geysers. The island is largely composed of a plateau that rises gradually from the coast to an average elevation of 500 meters. This plateau is characterized by volcanic mountains, which are the result of Iceland’s position on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a divergent tectonic plate boundary that runs through the centre of the island.

Iceland’s climate is classified as subarctic, with cool summers and relatively mild winters compared to other areas at similar latitudes. The island’s location on the edge of the Arctic Circle means that it experiences long periods of daylight in the summer, with the sun not setting for several weeks in some parts of the country. Conversely, in winter, Iceland experiences long periods of darkness, with the sun not rising for several weeks in some parts of the country, such as deep valleys.

The climate in Iceland is heavily influenced by the Gulf Stream, which brings warm up to the North Atlantic, and by the country’s high latitude and oceanic setting. As a result, Iceland experiences relatively mild temperatures compared to other areas at similar latitudes, with average temperatures ranging from around 1°C (33°F) in winter to 10°C (50°F) in summer. However, the weather in Iceland can be unpredictable and changeable, and it is not uncommon for the country to experience extreme weather events such as blizzards, heavy rain, and strong winds.

Dairy Price Hikes Spark Discussion on Industry Structure

The price of dairy products has risen 16% over the past year, well above inflation rates. At the same time, Auðhumla, the parent company of MS Iceland Dairies, which buys almost 100% of all milk produced in Iceland, reported record profits last year and an increase of ISK 4 billion [$29 million, €26.5 million] in operational profits between years. The CEO of MS Iceland Dairies told RÚV production costs have also risen and there is little real profit in the industry.

In Focus: Iceland’s Dairy Industry

Dairy consumption in Iceland is 60% higher than the European average, according to figures from MS Iceland Dairies. With inflation and rising food prices across the board, the increase in the cost of dairy products is felt strongly by local consumers.

The CEO of MS Iceland Dairies, Pálmi Vilhjálmsson, says that the company’s operational surplus is less than 1% of the company’s gross income. He stated that profits were small in the industry and that equipment costs were high relative to the production of other food products, and that rising prices of grain, fertiliser, electricity, and oil affected dairy prices.

Rafn Bergsson of the Icelandic Farmers Association says cow farmers have absorbed many of these rising costs and that further price hikes would be needed to improve their income and working conditions. Dairy prices are set by a government committee, and Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir says there is reason to review that system, which may be out of date. “If neither consumers nor farmers benefit from the arrangement, where does the profit lie?” Svandís stated. She called on intermediaries to take responsibility for the situation instead of taking advantage of monopolies to raise prices for consumers.

Whaling Crew Sues Over Video Recordings

Two crew members on a whaling ship operated by Iceland’s only active whaling company have sued the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) and the Directorate of Fisheries, RÚV reports. They assert that their right to privacy was violated by a video recording made on the ship.

The recordings were made as part of authorities’ surveillance of whaling last year, which was increased in 2022 in line with new regulations. The two crew members can be identified in the video and believe this violated their right to privacy.

A newly-release report made with the help of such surveillance indicates that whaling is not in line with animal welfare legislation in Iceland. Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir called the report “shocking” and said it called for a re-evaluation of the practice in Iceland.

Only one company currently practices whaling in Iceland, Hvalur hf., and their licence expires after the upcoming whaling season. Svandís has previously indicated that the government will not issue further whaling licence after this year.

Whaling Licence Cannot Be Withdrawn, Says Minister

Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir told RÚV it’s not possible to halt whaling this season, despite a report showing that the practice is not in line with legislation on animal welfare. Iceland’s only active whaling company, Hvalur hf., says it is developing two methods to make hunting more efficient, one that uses artificial intelligence and another that uses an electric current.

The report in question, newly released by the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST), showed that around one-third of whales studied did not die instantaneously when killed. Some 14 whales were shot more than once, while two whales had to be shot four times. The time it took the whales to die averaged 11.5 minutes but took nearly two hours in one case. One harpooned whale managed to escape after a five-hour chase.

No legal basis for withdrawing licence

The Minister called the report’s findings “shocking” and said it called for a re-evaluation of whaling in Iceland. “I find that this data indicates that this occupation is more a thing of the past than the future,” Svandís stated. Only one company, Hvalur hf., currently practices whaling in Iceland. Svandís stated that it is not possible to withdraw the company’s licence for the upcoming whaling season despite the report’s findings. “There needs to be a legal basis for yanking away this licence. That legal basis is not at hand, as far as I am informed in my ministry,” she stated. Svandís has previously indicated the government would not issue further whaling licences after the 2023 season.

Developing methods to make hunting more effective

In response to the MAST report, Hvalur hf. stated the company is developing two methods to make whaling more efficient. One method involves implementing artificial intelligence which should improve the accuracy of the harpoons. The other method involves killing the whales with an electric current if they don’t die instantaneously from the first harpoon. Kristján Loftsson, the CEO of Hvalur hf., made comments on 76 points in the report. The comments also refute the assumption that whales’ time of death equated to when they stopped moving, as animals can continue to move after death.

Hvalur hf. uses grenade-tipped harpoons to kill whales. They aim to penetrate about one metre into the whale and explode, releasing spring-loaded barbs into the flesh. According to the MAST report, this method kills around two-thirds of the animals instantly.