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Future of Grímsey ‘Mostly Political Decision’

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Future of Grímsey ‘Mostly Political Decision’

Grímsey

A signpost in Grímsey. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

The situation in the labor market on the island of Grímsey, which lies on the Arctic Circle to the north of Akureyri, North Iceland, is critical, according to Mayor of Akureyri Eiríkur Björn Björgvinsson. Grímsey is part of Akureyrarbær municipality.

Þóroddur Bjarnason, chair of the board of the Institute of Regional Development in Akureyri, said the decision as to whether the roughly 90-person strong population can remain on the island will be a political one.

A limited economy primarily based on one industry—the fishing industry— and high transportation costs to the mainland are among the issues putting the future of the island’s community at risk, ruv.is reports.

The indebtedness due to investment in fishing quota rights has caused major problems for fishing vessel operators. Eiríkur told ruv.is that the role of the municipality is to ensure that the foundations of the community are in place but that it would be difficult for the authorities to have direct interference with the local employment market.

Grímsey is one of 12 places in Iceland which is based almost entirely on the fishing industry. Þóroddur said that what these 12 places have in common is difficulties with transport, sparely populated settlements and a lack of economic diversity. “Then there is of course the instability of the quota system, that is to say that it isn’t just communities which are losing quota but that quotas can disappear overnight and if you aren’t part of a larger area then if the quota goes so do the jobs.”

The Grímsey inhabitants with which RÚV spoke all agreed that life on the island was good but that there was a strong demand for cheaper and more frequent transport.

Þóroddur said that while the decision on the community’s future would mostly be a political one, “It is a question we need to answer individually and politically.” He said that the aim is for the community to be able to continue to stay on Grímsey up to a certain point but that a decision needed to be made as to how far people were willing to go to keep the community alive.

Grímseyjarhreppur rural district amalgamated with Akureyri municipality in 2009. Grímsey is the northernmost inhabited part of Iceland. The islet of Kolbeinsey lies further north but is uninhabited.

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