Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag

Birds

Three day puffin hunt in Vestmannaeyjar islands despite poor condition of puffin colony

By Staff

  • Hunting puffins Puffins are caught with nets as they either return from the sea to their burrows in the cliffs, or on their way out to the ocean. Photo/Óskar P. Friðriksson

According to Icelandic law the puffin hunting season lasts from July 1 to August 15. However, local authorities can limit the hunting season in light of the condition of the local colonies. Puffin hunting will, for example, only be permitted during three days in August in the Vestmannaeyarj islands, off the coast of South Iceland.

Iceland's largest puffin colony under threat
The largest puffin colony in Iceland is located in the Vestmannaeyjar islands, and puffin hunting has traditionally been very important for the inhabitants of the islands. 

Rising ocean temperatures and changing climate conditions have put the puffin colonies in the islands under significant stress. Some fear the puffin colony in Vestmannaeyjar might even be on the brink of collapse. Puffin colonies in the North, East and West Iceland are in far better condition than those in South Iceland.

A three day puffin hunting season
Despite these concerns the local municipal authority recently decided to permit puffin hunting to go ahead this year. The hunting season will be limited to three days. The hunting season was also three days in the past two years. The local news site Vísir reports that some locals wanted the hunt to be canceled altogether, since "hardly any puffins have been seen in the cliffs or out on the sea this year".

The decision to permit the hunting is justified by the historical and cultural importance of this tradition. However, the municipality reminds hunters to "show utmost caution in the hunt, and conduct the hunt in a way allows the puffin population to enjoy the benefit of the doubt."

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