MFRI Suggests a Total Ban on Langoustine Fishing

Iceland‘s Marine & Freshwater Research Institude (MFRI) has suggested a total ban on langoustine fishing in 2022 and 2023.

Langoustine numbers in the country‘s fisheries have been extremely low in the past few years. The size of the langoustine population has shrunk by 27% since 2016 and this year, the total catch of langoustine was the smallest ever recorded.

See also: Langoustine Numbers at Record Low

Because of the declining population, MRFI introduced significant fishing limitations on langoustine last year, which entailed a ban on fishing more langoustine than needed to maintain scientific research. If their new suggestions will be heeded, no lobster fishing will be allowed for at least two years to protect the population, not even for scientific purposes.

The MRFI has also suggested a ban on bottom trawling in defined areas in Breiðamerkurdjúp, Hornafjarðardjúp and Lónsdjúp, in order to protect the langoustine.

Langoustine may disappear from the Icelandic market

Langoustine is the only species of lobster that can be found in Iceland’s fisheries. The species is mostly caught in the fisheries off the south coast of Iceland, by companies based in Höfn, Þorlákshöfn and Vestmannaeyjar.  It is considered a delicacy in the country and is commonly eaten at Christmas and other festive occasions. Through the years, langoustine has been a popular dish at the country‘s seafood restaurants.

See also: Poor Langoustine Season Could Mean Restaurant Shortage

Scientist do not know what has caused of the decline of the langoustine stocks around Iceland. In an interview with RÚV, a deep-sea specialist at MRFI said that full recovery of the langoustine population would take at least five to ten years. He warned that if the langoustine population fails to recover, it may disappear completely from the Icelandic market.

Risk Assessment to Be Conducted at Reynisfjara

The dangerous Reynisfjara beach will see a risk assessment conducted by the government. Reynisfjara is a popular travel destination nearby Vík in South Iceland. It has an immensely strong undertow, and waves that creep quickly upon travellers, threatening to snatch travellers out to sea. The risk evaluation will focus on both the strong tide as well as rockfall in the area. If the changes go through, the police will have the option to close the beach on dangerous days. A warning mast is also to be placed at the beach.

Three traveller deaths

Reynisfjara has claimed three lives since 2007, with many more close calls. The area is clearly marked with warning signs, and tour guides place great emphasis on safety in the area. This week, a number of travellers were swept into the water. The tide has also pinned travellers down in a small cave in the area.

Minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir leads the project, which will be performed by the police in South Iceland. The police intend to work alongside the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, The Icelandic Met Office and the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.

“It’s unacceptable that there’s a risk of a massive accident in one of the most popular tourist locations in the country, without the necessary arrangements in place. Certain improvements have been made, but the responsibility for the case is complicated as well as the fact that travellers often ignore warnings, putting themselves at great risk. This is why we recommend that a risk evaluation be performed and, based on that, the police can close the area when needed, which should in all likelihood not be more than five to seven days per year,” said Minister Þórdís Kolbrún.

Possible closures

The closures on the beach would prevent further accidents. It is expected that they would take place in extreme weather, with a strong tide, between November to March. A wave prediction system, as well as an alert system, will be placed in Reynisfjara, which has been in the works since 2017. The Icelandic Tourist Board sanctioned the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration to install the systems. The system is already available at the Icelandic Met Office’s website, and the information can be found on the Safe Travel websites. The project will be completed with the construction of a mast on the beach which will flash a warning light at times of danger. A permit from all of the landowners in the area, which number around 250 in total, is needed for the mast.

The beach is considered one of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world, with clear black sand, basalt columns, and the view of the Reynisdrangar rock formation. The beach is a two and half hour drive away from Reykjavík. The sneaker waves in the area pose a danger to travellers, who are advised to stand at least 30 metres away from the waves.

Visit www.safetravel.is for further information regarding travel safety, as well as www.road.is for the newest updates on road conditions.

45 Years Later, All of Route 1 Paved

45 years after the creation of Route 1, the Icelandic Ring Road, the circle has been fully completed as all of the road is now paved. The last stretch of the ring road to be fully completed was in Berufjörður fjord in East Iceland, which had been a gravel stretch of the road up until now.

The road in Berufjörður is 4,9 kilometres long and shortens the total length of Route 1 by 3,9 kilometres. It has been open for traffic with the new conditions since August 1 but was officially opened by the Icelandic Road Administration on August 14. The project of replacing the gravel with paved roads has been in the works since the early 2000s. This stretch of Route 1 was one of the more controversial as the road could ill handle rain along with heavy traffic. Over a thousand cars use the road stretch every day, so conditions became especially bad on the old gravel road during rain.

The project of converting the gravel road into a paved one, along with a new bridge crossing the Berufjörður fjord, began in August 2017. W

Route 1
Route 1 was created in 1974 with the construction of bridges crossing Skeiðarársandur sands. The 1,322 kilometre long road is popular with travellers, as they can circle the whole of the island. For the first years, the majority of the ring road was gravel. Work began on replacing the gravel with gravel in 1978.
Three separate extensive pushes were made by the Iceland Road Association towards making the whole of Route 1 paved. The first part to be completed was between Reykjavík and Akureyri in 1994, while the next project was from Reykjavík to Höfn í Hornafirði in 2001. The final major undertaking was completed between Akureyri and Egilsstaðir in 2009. Since then, smaller parts of Route 1 have slowly been upgraded from gravel roads to paved.

Head to www.road.is or call 1777 for road information during your travels in Iceland.

Large Rockslide in Reynisfjara Beach

A large rockslide fell from Reynisfjall mountain onto Reynisfjara beach this morning. The easternmost part of the beach, which is a popular tourist destination, has been closed off by the police. The rest of the beach remains open. Travellers are asked to respect the closure, as a number of travellers were spotted crossing the yellow police border which zoned off the area. The area which the rockslide fell on is often filled with travellers. Luckily, it is not known that there were any travellers in the area at the time.

A policeman from the South Iceland police arrived at the scene this morning and witnessed the remains of the rockslide, which appears to have been significant in size. The Icelandic Met Office has dispatched an avalanche watch employee to inspect the area. Sveinn Brynjólfsson, from the avalanche watch, stated that the rock is clearly unstable. “We will try to assess it today and figure out whether there are more fractures which rock could fall from,” Sveinn stated that rock slides fall from the mountain quite regularly and that the weather is not directly connected to the event. “Large rock slides have fallen from the area which faces the populated areas,” he stated.

Yesterday, a number of rocks fell down from the mountain onto the beach and at least three visitors were injured. Among them was a child which injured its foot and a young male who sustained a head injury. The injuries are not considered severe at this point in time. Today’s rock slide is believed to have been at the very least several tons. The sea closest to the area where the rock slide fell has turned a brown colour.

Lögregla hefur nú lokað fyrir umferð fólks í Reynisfjöru að hluta vegna hruns úr berginu austarlega, yfir fjörunni. Samkvæmt upplýsingum lögreglu slösuðust tveir þegar þeir fengu gjót á sig, annarsvegar karlmaður um tvítugt og hinsvegar barn. Meiðsl þeirra munu þó ekki vera alvarleg. Verið er að skoða aðstæður á vettvangi og meta hvort og til hvaða aðgerða verður gripið umfram það sem búið er að loka.

Posted by Lögreglan á Suðurlandi on Monday, August 19, 2019

The video shows the area yesterday after a number of rocks fell down the steep slope onto the beach. Today’s rock slide was significantly larger

A popular yet dangerous destination
The black sand Reynisfjara beach is one of the most popular traveller destinations in Iceland. Situated in South Iceland, close to Vík í Mýrdal, it is home to the Reynisdrangar sea stacks not far from the shore as well as basalt columns inside a cave on the beach. The ripper waves in the area are especially dangerous, so travellers are advised to stay out of the water. In 2016, a fatal accident took place as a Chinese traveller lost his life after having been ripped out to sea.

Closures Extended at Three Popular Sites Near Mývatn

The Minister for the Environment has approved a request issued by the Environment Agency of Iceland to extend closures at three popular natural attractions in the Mývatn region in North Iceland, Vísir reports. Access to Hverir geothermal area, Leirhnjúkur mountain, and Stóra-Víti crater will remain restricted until November.

The Environment Agency restricted foot traffic to these three sites on August 2 while their condition was assessed. During the initial closure, the Environment Agency also began work on elevated foot paths to facilitate future access to these areas without causing more damage to them. Two weeks since the initial closure, however, all three areas are still extremely wet and muddy, making it necessary to extend foot traffic restrictions while the ground recovers.

[media-credit name=”Umhverfisstofnun, Facebook” align=”alignnone” width=”860″][/media-credit]

The restriction of foot traffic to natural areas of interest is permitted under law 60/2013 on nature conservation, which allows for traffic to be limited or prevented entirely when an area is at risk of damage.

“If there is a significant risk of damage due to heavy traffic or because of the particularly sensitive condition of a natural area, the Environment Agency of Iceland may limit traffic or temporarily close the area in question to travelers on the recommendation of stake-holding municipalities, the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland, landowners, or on its own initiative,” reads the law. Closure or traffic restriction decisions are made in consultation with representatives of the tourism industry, as well as the aforementioned stakeholders, and can be extended with the approval of the Minister for the Environment.

Icelanders Recover Lost Airplane Engine in Greenland

A team of Icelanders successfully recently retrieved a part of an Air France aeroplane engine which fell off over the Greenland ice shelf in 2017.

On September 30, 2017, an Airbus A380 Air France aeroplane en route to Los Angeles from Paris suffered an uncontained engine failure. Part of one of its engines fell from a height of 30,000 feet, plunging into the ice shelf. The Engine Alliance engine dismantled 150 kilometres southeast of Paamiut, Greenland while the aeroplane was in cruise with its 521 occupants. The plane eventually made an emergency landing at Goose Bay Airport in Canada.

20-month long mission
The mission was organized by The French Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA). A team from the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) discovered the fan hub after a two-year-long search, buried four metres into the ice shelf. The Icelandic team was then dispatched to the ice shelf to find the fan hub, dig it up, and deliver it for further inspection. The whole mission, which took 20 months and encompassed of four different phases, was funded on a case-by-case basis by various stakeholders of the event such as AIB Denmark, Airbus, Air France, BEA & Engine Alliance. The manufacturer Engine Alliance has now received the parts to investigate further, and it is hoped that the investigation will shed further light on what went wrong during the flight.

Video of the retrieval from the BEA’s YouTube channel

“I was in contact with a Norwegian scientist who I studied with a long time ago”, said Arnar Ingi Gunnarsson when asked how the Icelanders got involved with the project. Arnar was then asked to find two others who had experience with technically difficult glacial work to go up onto the Greenland glacier and retrieve the engine.

Arnar contacted Tómas Eldjárn Vilhjálmsson and Anton Aðalsteinsson, his colleagues from the Aviation Rescue Squad of Reykjavík. Tómas had recently had his second child, “I didn’t know whether to believe him at first but I couldn’t say no. It took a little bit of time to convince the wife but I was successful in the end.”

Originally, the project was supposed to take two weeks, but the team retrieved the engine in only two days between June 29-30. “It was supposed to take two weeks at maximum, but we had hoped that we would be quicker. When we reached the area, we were quite quick. We were quick to dig and set things up. Then when we reached the part which we were looking for, we could use a mountain rescue system to heave it up. It saved us a lot of time,” Arnar said.

The risk of polar bears is everpresent on the ice shelf, so the team set up a system of wires around their tents, equipped with an alarm bell. Team members also slept with rifles on both sides, to make sure. The engine part itself was just over 150 kilograms heavy, but the team made easy of the work. “Tómas hit it with his shovel and realized that it was something other than ice. The whole team was merry,” Arnar said.

“It was a great adventure, and of course one would like to head on this type of adventure. I could very well think to make it my life’s work,” Tómas said.

BEA technical report (Link 1): https://www.bea.aero/index.php?id=40&L=1&news=17647&cHash=1bfded689632ae3185a2aeb9aad78993

BEA technical report (Link 2): https://www.bea.aero/uploads/tx_elyextendttnews/F-HPJE_TECHNICAL_REPORT_05.pdf

Full list of events from the Aviation Herald: http://avherald.com/h?article=4af15205&opt=0

Air Iceland Connect to Sell One Third of Planes

Air Iceland Connect

The management of Iceland’s domestic airline Air Iceland Connect (Flugfélag Íslands) plans to sell two of their six airplanes due to a decline in passengers, RÚV reports. Since the beginning of this year, domestic air passengers have dropped by 10% compared to the same time last year. Árni Gunnarsson, the company’s CEO, believes domestic flights will eventually recover.

Just three years ago, Air Iceland Connect purchased three Bombardier Q400 planes, considerably larger than the Dutch Fokker planes that made up their fleet. The company later acquired a smaller Bombardier Q200 when it sold its Fokker planes. Their fleet eventually became six Bombardier planes, four of which were Q400 models.

Foreign tourists decrease more than locals

While the airline’s overall number of passengers has decreased by 10%, the drop among foreign passengers is more drastic, in the range of 30-40%. Besides potentially selling two airplanes, the company plans to take other measures to address the lower number of passengers. These include reducing the frequency of trips to Egilsstaðir and Ísafjörður this winter, and using smaller planes when possible. Árni states the company does not plan to resort to layoffs, though if they prove necessary they will not be drastic.

Big Losses Yet Growing Profits for Icelandair

Icelandair

Despite operational challenges and significant losses in the first half of 2019, Icelandair’s profits appear to be on the way up, RÚV reports. The airline is reporting rising average revenue per passenger and rising fares for the first time since 2015.

Icelandair lost almost ISK 11 billion ($89.6 million/€80.7 million) in the second quarter this year, according to the financial report published by the company last week. Much of its losses are attributed to costs and lost revenue from the grounding of its three Boeing 737 Max 8 planes this spring due to safety concerns.

WOW bankruptcy proves beneficial

Nevertheless, the airline has several reasons to look on the bright side. Besides higher revenue per passenger and rising fares, and its number of passengers has also increased dramatically. In July, Icelandair transported 564,000 passengers, a 9% increase compared to July 2018. In particular, the number of passengers the company flew to Iceland reached a record high, increased by a third compared to July last year. The company’s number of passengers from Iceland also increased by one quarter, whereas the number of transfer passengers decreased by 10%.

In a press release, the company attributed these numbers to a deliberate shift in operations, which prioritised passengers flying to and from Iceland rather than those stopping over in the country as a response to the grounding of the three Boeing planes. The company has also prioritised improving the punctuality of their flights, as it has had to pay high amounts in compensation due to delays. Those efforts are showing results, as 71% of the companies landed punctually in July compared to just 51% in the same month last year.

Cash injection

US hedge fund PAR Capital Management bought an 11% stake in Icelandair Group in April. The additional capital is expected to solidify Icelandair’s financial situation and better prepare it for growth in the near future.

Higher Air Fares Anticipated This Winter

Icelandair plane Keflavík

Icelandair CEO Bogi Nils Bogason anticipates that his company’s air fares will be higher this winter than they were last year, RÚV reports.

Inflation figures published by Statistics Iceland seem to bear this hypothesis out: air fares have already gone up 6% between June and July. Research departments at Icelandic banks are actually surprised the increase hasn’t been higher, but also point out that at the moment, it’s 12% cheaper to take flights abroad from Iceland than it was in July 2018.

“As it now stands, there are still 25 airlines flying to and from Iceland, so there is a lot of competition and we have to make a good show for ourselves within that,” remarked Bogi Nils. “Then there are quite a few forces that have an effect on fares. The weather, for example. There’s been fantastic weather in Iceland, so there is less demand for flights abroad. Much less, than there was, for example, during the same time period last year. So there are a lot of things that drive fares and demand and that’s what’s fun about this industry.”

Bogi Nils says, however, that he thinks the competition within the market was unusual last year, hence the projected rise in fares this coming winter.

These fare projections come in the wake of news that Icelandair lost almost ISK 11 billion ($89.6 million/€80.7 million) in the second quarter this year, according to the financial report published by the company on Thursday. Much of its losses are attributed to costs and lost revenue from the grounding of its three Boeing 737 Max 8 planes this spring. The decision to ground these planes was also made by airlines in the UK, Norway, Indonesia, Australia, China, and Singapore following the crash of a Boeing 7373 Max 8 operated by Ethiopian Airlines in which 157 passengers lost their lives and a previous crash five months earlier. Both planes crashed shortly after takeoff.

Bogi Nils says that Icelandair expects to receive some compensation from Boeing for the lost revenue and that negotiations with the plane manufacturer are already underway.

Whale of a Watching Season in North Iceland

This summer has been particularly good for whale watching in North Iceland, Vísir reports. According to one representative, Freyr Antonsson of Arctic Adventures in the North Iceland village of Dalvík, his company made 180 whale watching trips in July and saw a whale on all but four of them.

“We’ve had to sail a bit further out than where their food supply is, but there’s nothing unusual about that,” he remarked. “Yesterday, I went on three trips. In the morning, I saw one humpback, in the middle of the day, I saw five, and then one in the later part of the day. All in the same spot.”

There have been reports that few whales have been sighted of late in Eyjafjörður, the fjord on which the town of Akureyri is located. According to Freyr and others in the whale watching industry, however, that problem hasn’t extended beyond the fjord.