Seals Gain Protected Status in Reykjavík Skip to content

Seals Gain Protected Status in Reykjavík

Seals are now protected within the Reykjavík City limits and the surrounding area. The next step is to ensure the protection status of seals in the general law, according to mammal ecologist Ester Rut Unnsteinsdóttir at The Icelandic Institute of Natural History, RÚV reports.

The Environment and Planning Committee of Reykjavík City approved a proposal to make seals protected within coastal areas surrounding Reykjavík, as well as near estuaries. All hunting of both common seals and grey seals will cease within the jurisdiction of the city. Reykjavík City’s website states it is necessary to improve the legal status of seals and to create a framework to control seal hunting. The decision doesn’t have a formal legal effect but is more of a statement of intent.

“We hope that more municipalities follow suit, but what matters most is to ensure that seals become legally protected, so they have adequate protection in Iceland,” said Ester Rut from the Icelandic Institute of Natural History.

The common seal is listed as an endangered species in Iceland while the grey seal is listed as vulnerable. The common seal (phoca vitulina) is a coastal animal, living closer to the shore, while the grey seal (halichoerus grypus) is an ocean-going seal. The common seal is sometimes named the speckled seal. The two species are considered among the most common seal species in the world. However, the species have faced tough times in Iceland in recent years. “We have no knowledge of why it’s happening, but there’s a clear reason to react,” said Ester. Further investigation needs to take place regarding the reduction of the seals. Common seal numbers have decreased by 77% in a 35-year timespan. In years past, they were hunted in considerable numbers but no major hunting has taken place in recent history.

“It might be bycatch that causes the reduction when they accidentally get caught by nets intended for other species. That type of hunting is relatively common but is most often not registered,” commented Ester.

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