An initiative to remove the masses of dead herring in Kolgrafafjörður in West Iceland began yesterday. The goal is to bury the herring before it starts rotting, adding to the already extensive amount of grútur, herring fat, which pollutes the beach.
The herring in Kolgrafafjörður. Photo: Páll Stefánsson/Iceland Review.
The fat, which poses a danger to birds, will be shoveled up and disposed of at a certified location, Fréttablaðið reports.
Locals will be carrying out the cleansing at the cost of the Icelandic state. The authorities have also contributed ISK 6 million (USD 47,000, EUR 35,000) to surveillance of the situation in the fjord.
“After two days we will evaluate the progress and make a decision on how to proceed,” said Helgi Jensson, consultant at the Environment Agency of Iceland, who has helped organizing the cleansing project.
Among those participating in the cleansing is Bjarni Sigurbjörnsson of the nearby farm Eiði. “It seems all right and I’m pleased that the cleansing has begun,” he commented on the project.
Biologists from the Icelandic Institute of Natural History (NÍ) and the West Icelandic Institute of Natural History (NV) flew across the area on Tuesday to monitor birdlife and look for sea eagles that were covered in fat from the herring.
“We spotted 39 eagles,” said director of NV Róbert Arnar Stefánsson. “There was some visible fat pollution on the ocean surface and dead herring covered the ocean floor near Eiði. There was still a large number of birds in the area.”
They couldn’t confirm whether the health of any of the eagles had been compromised because of the fat; NV had received five reports of eagles that were covered in fat the same day.
“Many flew up and seemed to be heavy, landing again after a short flight, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they were wet [from grútur],” Róbert stated.
“Other eagles may have been in a similar condition as those spotted in the past days; wet and having difficulties flying but not completely disabled,” he added.
“It’s amazing to see so many eagles in a small area but at the same time it is concerning given that they are at considerable risk of coming into contact with the fat,” Róbert concluded.
Click here to read more about the herring and birdlife.