What Are Icelanders Talking About?: Whales, Sugar And A Naval Base - The Reykjavik Grapevine

What Are Icelanders Talking About?: Whales, Sugar And A Naval Base

What Are Icelanders Talking About?: Whales, Sugar And A Naval Base

Published July 8, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Photos by
Art Bicnick

Oh whale

The lack of any real market for whale meat has prompted Iceland’s whalers to forego the hunt this season, for the first time since 2003. The Icelandic National Broadcast station, RÚV, reports that this applies not only to endangered fin whales, but also to the far more plentiful minke whales.

Gunnar Bergmann Jónsson, a minke whaler and the CEO of whaling company IP Útgerð, said that his company would skip whaling to focus on sea cucumbers instead. The company will, however, import minke whale meat from Norway to meet what little demand there is in Iceland for it, and will likely begin hunting minke whales again in the spring of 2020.

War on sugar

After previous attempts led to lukewarm results, the Directorate of Health is taking another stab at a sugar tax, which could be 20% or higher.

There have long been calls for the government to establish a sugar tax. According to a 2013 report from the Directorate of Health, about 21% of adult Icelanders have a BMI of 30 or greater, and 5% of children are overweight. This, among other findings, the Directorate says, leads them to the conclusion that greater measures must be taken to get Icelanders to eat healthier. A higher tax on foods high in sugar—such as candy and soft drinks—has been one proposed way to do that.

“The last time this was tried, the price of soft drinks only went up by about 5 ISK per litre, while at the same time the price of chocolate decreased,” assistant director Kjartan Hreinn Njálsson told reporters. “Now we are proposing a 20% increase, which consumers would actually feel the effects of, while the 5% hike did not in any way go far enough.”

Where did this army come from?

According to a declassified 2020 fiscal budget report from the US Department of Defense, the US military plans to spend some $57 million USD on the Keflavík Naval Base. This will include some $18 million USD towards upgrading the airfield’s “dangerous cargo pad,” a paved area for the loading and unloading of explosives and other hazardous cargo, $7 million USD for beddown site prep, referring to launching areas for military aircraft, and the remaining $32 million USD to expand the parking apron, the area where military aircraft are parked when not preparing for take-off.

A proposal currently on the table with the Parliamentary Budget Committee suggests repurposing some 300 million ISK from the 600 million ISK the Icelandic government originally allotted for international aid and direct it instead towards helping the US build up the base.

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