Puffingate: Much Ado About Nothing, Probably - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Puffingate: Much Ado About Nothing, Probably

Published July 31, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Photos by
Art Bicnick

The director of one of Iceland’s major hunting organisations says recent reports of British hunters bagging hundreds of puffins is “total nonsense”, RÚV reports, based on his own investigations into the evidence.

It has been reported across UK media that British hunters are coming to Iceland and using rifles to kill the tiny birds, which are normally hunted with nets, by the hundreds. This story has sparked a great deal of controversy, in the UK and in Iceland alike.

Áki Ármann Jónsson, the director of SKOTVÍS, The Icelandic Hunting Association, told reporters that this story is “total nonsense from start to finish”.

The first indication was the photos that the British media used in their reporting. Áki says that these photos were actually from 2008 and 2010, and taken from the website of The Icelandic Hunting Club, which ceased operations years ago. Furthermore, the photos in question do not show British hunters, but rather from hunters Malta and the United States.

Áki also checked in with the Environment Agency of Iceland about the matter. The agency confirmed that only six Britons have been granted hunting licenses in Iceland last year for reindeer and geese, and three have gotten a license this year to hunt reindeer. These licenses must be co-signed by an Icelander, and a detailed report on what exactly has been hunted must be submitted. RÚV was able to examine the email communications between the agency and Áki for confirmation.

Áki says it is primarily Americans, Maltans and Italians who come to Iceland to hunt puffins. He believes that “this is as much a tempest in a teapot as there could be”, speculating that the strong reaction of the British public to the original story can be attributed to plummeting puffin stocks in Britain, which have been decimated by climate change.

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