As many as 200 cruise ship passengers disembarked at the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the Westfjords in a single day this week, RÚV reports. This is currently legal, as at present, there are no regulations in place regarding cruise ship landfalls in nature reserves.
This is the second time that the Le Boreal cruise ship has landed in Hornstrandir, and not the first time it’s received criticism for doing so. Last year, however, the criticism was largely to do with it neglecting to go through the proper procedure when it entered the country—namely, it did not undergo a customs inspection. This time around, the ship went through customs in Ísafjörður before proceeding on its way.
Regulations are still under development regarding size limits for cruise ships that wish to land in protected natural areas. Until such rules take effect, however, any ship that undergoes a custom inspection is free to land. “We’ve sent requests to all tourism service providers, including providers who offer cruises, requesting certain limits on the number of people [coming ashore],” explained Kristín Ósk Jónasdóttir, a park ranger who works for the Environmental Agency and who witnessed Le Boreal’s landing this week.
It’s recommended, for instance, that after particularly wet periods, groups of no more than 20 people come ashore at a nature preserve. “It’s undeniable that bringing 200 people into such a delicate environment has a significant impact,” Kristín continued. “And I’m worried that while we don’t have the means to stop this, there are just more ships waiting in the wings that want to do this, too.”
Kristín sees this as an issue that effects Iceland as a whole. “We need to set rules regarding cruise ship landfall for the whole country, both in nature reserves and those areas that aren’t protected, so that we can manage this traffic.”