The Christmas Black Market Booming - The Reykjavik Grapevine

The Christmas Black Market Booming

Published December 17, 2013

This is the season for black market trade with rock ptarmigan, the game bird essential for some people’s Christmas feast, which sells these days for 2,500 to 4,500 ISK a piece.

It’s indeed illegal to sell ptarmigans as hunters are instructed to only hunt for their personal consumption.

RÚV contacted some hunters who are selling their excess catch; they admitted to selling friends and family each bird for around 2,500 ISK but otherwise the common price would be 3,500 ISK a bird, sometimes even as high as 4,500 ISK.

Ptarmigan meat makes a popular Christmas dish but in 2003 and 2004 the Minister of Environment placed a ban on hunting ptarmigan in 2003 and 2004, after low populations of the bird were recorded.

Since then, a limited number of birds is allowed to be caught during allotted days each fall, this year it was 42,000 ptarmigan birds in 12 days, three days more than what’s been allotted since 2011.

The average ptarmigan bird makes for around 150 grams of meat or maximum 200 grams, according to chefs. That means that the price of the kilo in the black market is around 12,500 – 22,500 ISK.

When sold in meat counters, the average price was about 17,500 ISK per kilo.

Now however, the game bird sold in supermarkets for Christmas, as substitute for the rock ptarmigan, is black grouse imported from Scotland, which costs around 1,400 ISK a piece.

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