A task force appointed by Minister for the Environment Svandís Svavarsdóttir in September suggests that five species of seabirds be placed under absolute protection: razorbill, black guillemot, Brünnich’s guillemot, common guillemot and puffin.
Puffins in south Iceland. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
Svandís presented the task force’s report at a cabinet meeting yesterday, proposing a ban on hunting, egg collecting and all other exploration of these species in the next five years due to their rapid decline, Morgunblaðið reports.
It was agreed to prepare a bill on legal amendments giving the environment minister the authority to control landowners’ rights to benefits on their property.
Research indicates that the annual decline of razorbills is approximately 20 percent, seven percent among common guillemots and 24 percent among Brünnich’s guillemots.
Continuous nesting difficulties have occurred among 75 percent of the puffin stock in the past years and an absolute collapse in 2011.
The task force concludes that the main reason for this development is lack of food and that a temporary hunting ban will speed up their restoration.
However, the task force was not unified in its decision; representatives of the hunting association Skotvís and the Environment Agency of Iceland propose limited hunting instead of absolute preservation.
The Hunting Association of Iceland (Skotveiðifélag Íslands) released a statement yesterday in response to the task force’s report, stating that hunting has little impact on the stock size of cliff-dwelling birds in Iceland.
Farmers are also discontent. “The legal amendment, which will probably never be revoked, will have serious consequences for landowners who claim their right to benefits on their property today” Guðbjörg Helga Jóhannesdóttir, employment and innovation consultant at the Icelandic Farmers’ Association (BÍ), told Fréttablaðið.
“The rights will be moved from landowners to the minister. Landowners’ rights to benefits will probably be dependent on exemptions, the opposite of what it is today,” she added.
Guðbjörg, who was BÍ’s representative on the task force, resigned from it at the request of BÍ once the proposals had been finalized.
“There is nothing that indicates that traditional exploration jeopardizes the existence of the bird stocks in question; lack of food is the main reason,” she stated.
Click here to read more about the situation of seabirds in Iceland.