Minister Alarmed by Plastic Pollution on Eldey Island

Eldey island, off the coast of the Reykjanes peninsula

A recent scientific expedition to the island of Eldey has revealed significant plastic pollution in gannet nests. The Minister of the Environment admitted that the images were shocking and stated there was reason to investigate the source of the plastic.

One of the world’s largest gannet colonies

Last weekend, a team of experts from the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, the University of Iceland, the Southwest Iceland Nature Research Centre, alongside wardens from the Environment Agency of Iceland embarked upon a scientific expedition to the island of Eldey.

Eldey is a small, uninhabited island 13 km off the southwest coast of Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula, covering 3 hectares and rising 77 metres above sea level. Notably, its sheer cliffs host one of the world’s largest northern gannet colonies, with approximately 16,000 pairs.

The purpose of the expedition was to measure the island´s erosion and height, assess gannet mortality following bird flu, and examine the extent of plastic pollution on the island.  

Nests primarily made from plastic

The expedition revealed that gannets have easy access to plastic, as their nests are mostly made from plastic debris. Hundreds of dead gannets were also observed by the experts, with it being estimated that three factors played a role in their deaths: natural attrition, bird flu, and plastic pollution.

“We knew it was bad, but this is very shocking. Almost all nests are made more or less out of plastic. So, this is terrible,” Sindri Gíslason, the head of the Southwest Iceland Nature Research Centre, told RÚV earlier this week.

“Striking” images

“The images were striking. This is the real upshot when we, or someone else, disposes of waste,” Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Minister of the Environment, Energy, and Climate, stated in an interview with RÚV yesterday

As noted by RÚV, monitoring by the Environment Agency on Icelandic shores and the Marine Research Institute’s recordings of plastic have revealed that the largest source of plastic in the sea around Iceland comes from the fishing industry. 

Although the origin of the plastic on Eldey is not clear, the minister believes there is ample reason to investigate. “We are in a constant dialogue with the business community, and there is every reason to delve into this matter and analyse the origin of the plastic on Eldey,” Guðlaugur Þór observed.

Rauðasandur Annual Beach Cleanup Complete

plastic

On Saturday, July 2, volunteers cleaned up the Rauðisandur beach for the seventh time, reports Iceland’s Environmental Agency.

The annual cleanup takes place through the cooperation of the Environmental Agency, landowners, and the local municipalities. This year, 22 volunteers were on hand to help clear the beaches.

Small debris is cleared off of the beach with bags, but larger items must be placed in piles to be taken away to containers for sorting. Notably, this year saw significantly less trash than previous years, perhaps due to the lull in tourism brought on by COVID.

Part of the beach cleaning is carried out in accordance with OSPAR, an international agreement for environmental protection in the North-East Atlantic. This entails demarcating a 100m stretch of beach and then measuring and reporting all debris. This is done to better understand the ways in which pollution, such as plastic, accumulates in the ocean.

Unlike other beaches in Iceland with black, volcanic sand, Rauðasandur, located in the West Fjords, is noteworthy for its red sands. This distinctive feature comes from scallops, which grow in particularly high density in Breiðafjörður.

Six Icelandic Women Swim Across the English Channel

Swimming group Marglytturnar (Jellyfish) finished their relay swim across the English channel just before 9 pm yesterday. The last swimmer, Halldóra Gyða Matthíasdóttir Proppé took the last strokes at 20.53, after 15 hours of relay swimming from Dover, England to Cap Gris, France. The swim was intended to raise awareness of plastic pollution in the ocean.

Marglytturnar is a group of six swimmers, Birna Bragadóttir, Brynhildur Ólafsdóttir, Sigrún Þ. Geirsdóttir, Sigurlaug maría Jónsdóttir, Þórey Vilhjálmsdóttir, and Halldóra Gyða Matthíasdóttir. In addition, Gréta Ingþórsdóttir and Soffía Sigurgeirsdóttir helped organize the event. Birna Bragadóttir told RÚV that the journey went swimmingly, as evident by the fact that they reached their destination. “We’ve tuned together as a team and have waited for this patiently so we just got to work, encouraged one another and everyone did their part. It’s a goal we set two years ago and it’s incredible that we’ve reached it. As soon as we got over the hardest part, it was extremely exciting.”

The purpose of the swim was to raise awareness of plastic pollution and its effect on the ocean’s ecosystem. Marglytturnar are raising funds for Blái herinn, an environmental organization focused on fighting plastic pollution and cleaning Iceland’s beaches.

The marglyttur swimming group before their relay swim across the English Channel
[/media-credit] The Marglyttur swimming group before their relay swim across the English Channel