Expert Suggests Puffin Hunting Ban Skip to content

Expert Suggests Puffin Hunting Ban

By Yelena

Puffins lundar látrabjarg
Photo: Berglind Jóhannsdóttir. A puffin nestled in the Látrabjarg cliffs in Iceland’s Westfjords.

Iceland should ban puffin hunting on state land and ban the sale of puffin meat to protect the birds’ declining population, the country’s foremost puffin expert told RÚV. Hunting as well as environmental conditions have contributed to the ongoing decline of Iceland’s puffin population. Iceland has a global responsibility to protect the bird, according to biologist Erpur Snær Hanssen.

Puffin population declined by 70% over 30 years

Iceland has the world’s largest population of breeding puffins, with 20% of the global population nesting in the Westman Islands alone, and some 3 million nesting pairs across the country. A study published last year indicated that Iceland’s puffin population had declined by a staggering 70% since 1995, surpassing the previously believed figure of 40%. Hunting accounts for at least 10% of this decline, according to biologist Erpur Snær Hanssen of the South Iceland Nature Centre.

Erpur has been monitoring Iceland’s puffins for decades. He says the Atlantic puffin has been hunted unsustainably for over 200 years. The Environment Agency of Iceland and the Ministry for the Environment are urging hunters and restaurateurs to limit puffin hunting and sales, but they should do even more, according to Erpur.

International responsibility to protect the puffin

Erpur says that the government has an international responsibility to protect the species and that it must take harsher measures than simply urging hunters and restaurateurs to limit their puffin hunting and consumption. “Regarding improvements, a ban on the sale [of puffin products] would be one very strong element, then it’s also a question of the state setting an example and protect its own colonies, it has a number of colonies [on state land], like Málmey island in Skagafjörður,” Erpur stated.

The Atlantic puffin’s conservation status has been considered “vulnerable” since 2015.

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