Iceland Mag

7 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

Birds

Puffin off the menu? Conservationists to push for ban on sale of seabird meat

By Staff

  • Hunting puffins Puffin hunters ambush the birds as they return from sea, catching them in nets. Photo/Óskar P. Friðriksson

Your next puffin steak in Iceland might be the last you will ever consume. The Icelandic bird conservation society Fuglavernd will request that the Ministry of Environment to institute a complete ban on the sale of the meat of seabirds like puffins and other auks, including common and thick billed murre. Many seabird populations, including the puffin, are facing significant stress due to changing climate conditions.

Most of the puffin (and whale) sold at Icelandic restaurants is bought by foreign visitors.

Read more: The Atlantic Puffin is now considered to be facing danger of extinction

Erpur Snær Hansen, an ornithologist and a campaigner for the conservation of seabirds, told the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service that at the same time as puffins were facing severe stress there was far too much puffin was being sold at Reykjavík restaurants.

"What kind of moral compass do you need to have to flood the market with this meat, acting as if everything is fine and dandy, just to make a quick buck?"

Erpur added that the restaurant and tourism industries needed to pause and think about what kind of messages were being sent to foreign visitors. He also complained that it appeared like the government was not particularly interested in the issue. He pointed out that while the major seabird populations, including the puffin population, were still very large in Iceland, they were declining globally. This made it even more important for Icelanders to protect these birds.

Read more: Slideshow: The Pysja Patrols and the kids who rescued nearly 5000 pufflings this summer

Puffin hunting is currently banned in all parts of Iceland, except in the north. The hunting ban in the South, West and East Iceland has had positive effects on the population, he argues. "Puffin meat has gone up dramatically in price after the hunting bans were instituted, which means that the traditional consumers, locals, have cut down their consumption. But it's still sold to consumers who are willing to pay top-dollar, and that's the restaurant industry."

 

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