The boards of both Landvernd and the Icelandic Natural History Society have sent a stern letter to both the Minister of Environment and National Resources, Guðmundur Ingi Guðbjartsson, and Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, Kristján Þór Júlíusson expressing their concern about the Icelandic seal population, Fréttablaðið reports.
“Many people were shocked by the news in Fréttablaðið recently that thousands of harbor seals have died in grayling nets in recent years,” says Ester Rut Unnsteinsdóttir, chairman of the Icelandic Natural History Society.
Ester goes on to say that the reputation of Iceland is at stake if no action is taken.
Not fair for the seals
Between 2014 and 2018, the calculated number of seals caught in grayling nets was 2,695 animals each year.
Of these, 1,389 harbour seals were considered to be in acute danger of extinction. The harbour seal population is estimated at 9,400 animals, but the main cause of death for harbour seals is drowning in fishing gear.
“The nation cannot be known for the extinction of Icelandic seal populations, as there is a significant risk. The nation’s self-esteem and reputation are at stake,” says the letter.
It would also be a gross violation of international conventions on biodiversity and animal protection, and violates animal welfare laws.
Important for the ecosystem
“Seals are an integral part of Iceland’s nature and therefore it seems inconceivable that these animals, which play an important role in the ecosystem of coastal areas and in the minds of many Icelanders, are killed in this way,” says Ester.
She goes on to say that “It is necessary to identify immediately what action can be taken right away so that this unfortunate development can be stopped. It is clear that further realistic measures need to be taken to limit seal deaths in grayling fishing.”
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