Inhabitants of the Westman Islands, south of Iceland, fear that not enough puffins will be caught in time for their annual National Festival during Merchants’ Weekend, the first weekend in August. Traditionally, locals prepare puffin meat for visitors.
“We won’t catch enough for the National Festival,” local puffin processor Magnús Bragason told 24 Stundir. “But I’m working on getting puffins from Grímsey [Iceland’s northernmost inhabited island]. Maybe Grímsey will save the National Festival this year.”
Last year the puffin hunting season began on July 1 and, according to Bragason, last year there weren’t enough caught birds to feed festival attendees either. This year the puffin season didn’t begin until July 10 because of the poor situation of the puffin stock, and the first few days after the season began the wind direction was unfortunate for puffin hunting.
The weather forecast for the next few days is, however, good for puffin hunting. “But the ten days we missed of the 30 days of hunting before the National Festival make a lot of difference,” Bragason said.
Few puffin chicks have survived since 2005, probably because there is a lack of sand eels on which the puffins feed, according to Erpur Snaer Hansen, a biologist at the South Iceland Nature Institute.
Hansen said that two- to three-year-old puffins make up 70 percent of the hunting stock, but birds from that age groups are almost completely missing this year. “When 70 percent of the hunting stock is missing, the number of caught birds drops automatically.”
Hansen said it is uncertain whether many puffin chicks will survive this year. The South Iceland Nature Institute and Bjargfélagid, an association of puffin hunters, will meet on Sunday and decide whether it is responsible to continue hunting puffins.