Westman Islands Puffin Hunters Relocate Skip to content

Westman Islands Puffin Hunters Relocate

Three puffin hunters from the Westman Islands, off South Iceland, recently traveled to Grímsey, an island north of Iceland, to catch puffins for the hunters’ annual celebration in the autumn. Boiled puffin, fresh or smoked, is a specialty of the islands.


Puffins. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

On July 18 it was decided that due to the poor state of the stock in the Westman Islands, no puffin hunting would take place there this summer, Morgunblaðið reports.

“Grímsey inhabitants gave us permission to catch a certain number of birds there. We had suspected that hunting would be banned [in the Westman Islands] and sought other means to obtain puffins. It took us three hours to catch our quota,” said Hlöðver Guðnason, chairman of the islands’ Cliff-Dwelling Bird Hunters’ Society.

He said he was amazed at the birdlife in Grímsey. “It was incredible. There were many adults feeding chicks with small fish. We tried to avoid them and only catch young birds and geldings.”

“It was clear by the birdlife that there was a lot of food in the ocean. The Arctic terns, razorbills and puffins carried small fish to their chicks. There is nothing that indicates that there is something wrong in the north,” Hlöðver added.

However, the situation of puffin colonies in South Iceland looks dire. Biologist and divisional manager of ecology studies at the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, Erpur Snær Hansen, is currently touring the country and has studied six colonies out of 12.

This is the summer’s second scientific expedition to puffin colonies. “We toured the country earlier this summer to see how many birds were nesting. Now we are checking how high a percentage of chicks will survive,” Erpur said.

“In the Westman Islands and Dyrhólaey chicks are starting to die. At Ingólfshöfði all chicks died. That happened in July. Half are dead in Papey and there are indications that none of the chicks there will survive,” Erpur reported.

“However, the situation looks good in Borgarfjörður eystri and Lundey in Skjálfandi where we are now,” he added.

Hlöðver and his fellow hunters had never visited Grímsey before and were given a warm welcome by locals. In exchange, their hosts have been invited to the hunters’ ball in the Westman Islands.

Click here to read more about the condition of puffins in Iceland.


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