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.