Ptarmigan Quota Increased for Upcoming Hunting Season

The Ministry of the Environment, Energy, and Climate has announced that the annual ptarmigan hunting season will begin on November 1 and conclude on December 4. This year’s hunting quota has been set at 26,000 birds, an increase of 6,000 from last year.

Poor recruitment in Northeast and West Iceland

Rock ptarmigan are still hunted in Iceland as they are considered a delicacy, often consumed on Christmas Eve. The Icelandic Institute of Natural History claims the preservation status the ptarmigan gained in 2003 has helped to significantly restore numbers. In May, the institute reported that the ptarmigan population was nearing its zenith in West and Northwest Iceland in the Westfjords while the population was likely declining in Northeast and East Iceland. In August, the institute reported poor recruitment in Northeast and West Iceland. The total ptarmigan population was estimated at just under 300,000 birds.

Yesterday, Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Minister for the Environment, Energy, and Climate, announced the arrangement of this year’s ptarmigan hunting season. An announcement on the government’s website stated that hunting season shall last from November 1 to December 4, between 12 noon and sunset, from Tuesdays to Fridays. This year’s arrangement is similar to last year’s, with the exception that the quota has been increased to 26,000 birds, an increase of 6,000.

Hunters asked to show moderation

Guðlaugur Þór also asked hunters to show moderation in light of the recruitment failure in Northeast and West Iceland: poor weather conditions this spring and summer are the likely explanation. The minister further encouraged hunters to refrain from hunting in large numbers in Northeast Iceland. Lastly, the announcement iterates the ban on ptarmigan sales, which applies equally to the sale of ptarmigan to resellers and others.

“I’ve emphasised that the Environment Agency of Iceland should expedite the creation of a management and protection plan for the ptarmigan and that the arrangement of hunting season should based on that plan in the future,” the press release reads.

The statement adds that a timeline for the management and protection plan, which involves a high level of cooperation with interested parties, has been established and that the plan would likely be introduced in May of 2023.

New Restrictions on Fireworks Proposed

A ministerial committee appointed to review the negative impacts of pollution from fireworks has issued recommendations which would significantly curtail fireworks usage, RÚV reports. A joint statement issued by the committee emphasised the importance of taking practical measures to improve public health while also ensuring that Iceland’s Search and Rescue organisations remain well-funded (ICE-SAR currently earns half its annual revenue from the sale of fireworks).

Per the proposed regulations, it would only be permissible to set off fireworks in Iceland during the following windows: 4.00pm on New Year’s Eve to 2.00am on New Year’s Day; 4.00pm to 10.00pm on New Year’s Day; 4.00pm to 10.00pm on January 6th (Þrettándinn, otherwise known as Epiphany, or the last day of Christmas). Current law allows for the sale and use of fireworks from December 28 until January 6, during which time they are not permitted to be set off between midnight and 9.00am, except on New Year’s Eve.

The new recommendations would also allow for Þrettándinn celebrations to be postponed in the event of windy weather or heavy frost, although postponements beyond the following Sunday would not be allowed. Municipalities could also elect to hold Þrettándinn celebrations on Saturday or Sunday during the first week of January.

In total, the committee made seven recommendations on curtailing the use of fireworks:

  • Short-term measures put in place by local health committees related to fireworks pollution
  • Licences and supervision for fireworks displays
  • A more restrictive timeframe during which the use of fireworks is permitted
  • Fewer days on which fireworks are sold
  • Increased supervision and oversight on fireworks use
  • Penalties and fines related to misuse of fireworks
  • The appointment of a working group to discuss a new financing model for ICE-SAR rescue teams

Representatives of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources on the committee additionally proposed that public use of larger fireworks and firework “cakes” should be discontinued by 2030. They also proposed that people should only be allowed to set off fireworks in designated areas. The representative from the Ministry of Justice proposed more detailed measurements be taken on fireworks-generated pollution, via an increase in the number of pollution-measuring stations, an analysis of where pollution originates, and a ban imposed on the importation of bottle rockets.

Policy Needed to Combat Invasive Plant Species

Foreign plant seeds and pests that are brought into Iceland can cause damage to the Icelandic ecosystem. Plant ecologist Kristín Svavarsdóttir told RÚV that the government needs to develop a strategy to combat invasive species and is particularly concerned about seeds that are inadvertently brought into the country in imported soil.

Kristín says that this problem of invasive species dispersing around areas where soil importation is highest—i.e. cities and towns where there’s a lot of agriculture—is well-known in other countries and it’s the job of the Ministry of the Environment to create a policy to combat this phenomenon in Iceland. “This is classified as one of the largest environmental issues in the world, but we’ve completely ignored it,” she remarked.

The debate always revolves around individual species, Kristín continued, but she believes that the focus should be much broader. “Of course, we need to look at individual species but we also need to set rules and working methods both regarding how we’re going to prevent this and [how to] be aware of what species we’re bringing in—that’s to say intentionally, although of course there will also be species coming in unintentionally, in soil for instance. We’re kind of just letting things happen. It’s carelessness, pure and simple.”