The majority of members on Iceland’s working group on the protection of sea birds have controversially decided that complete protection of five species is the only way to strengthen their numbers.
The associations of farmers and hunters have both criticised the working group’s conclusion; saying that hunting and other exploitation (such as egg collecting) have little effect on the bird stocks and their continued downward spiral is first and foremost down to food shortages.
“It was the opinion of the majority that a hunting ban could speed up the recovery of these stocks,” biologist and work group chairman Sigurður Þráinsson told RÚV. “There hasn’t been a decent rise in the puffin population at all in recent years. Many years’ chicks are missing from the stock almost entirely. All extra individuals will help to regenerate the stock. We don’t know what happened; but of course they need food.”
Whether or not the stock is heading for an outright collapse if the working group’s recommendation is not followed, Sigurður believes not.
“Maybe not a complete collapse, but the stocks will remain on the downward slope, and a faster downward slope than food shortages alone would cause.”