Cruise ship passengers alight in reserve
The same ship, Le Boreal, prompted controversy last year when it disembarked passengers on the Hornstrandir nature reserve without proper customs screening. This time around, the ship took its customs inspection in Ísafjörður yesterday before carrying on to Veiðileysufjörður and Hesteyrarfjörður in Hornstrandir. “Based on the traffic, both in Zodiacs and people I saw there, and people who were still ashore, I would guess there were at least between 150 and 200 people who went ashore,” says Kristín Ósk Jónasdóttir, a specialist and ranger with the Environment Agency, who monitored the ship’s activities.
A management and protection plan for Hornstrandir is currently in preparation and is expected to set limits on the size of ships allowed to visit the reserve. Until the new rules come into effect, however, ships like Le Boreal are entitled to disembark passengers there, after customs clearance.
“We have sent a request to all tourism providers, including those serving the cruise ships, which requests certain caps on numbers,” Kristín says. It recommends, for example, that organised tours should not include more than 20 people following rainy periods. “Having 200 people in such a sensitive environment has an undeniably massive impact and I fear that while we have no tools to stop it then there will be more ships on the horizon waiting to do the same,” Kristín adds.
Although new rules are expected to govern landing on Hornstrandir soon, the problem is not limited to that one nature reserve. Kristín says: “We need to set rules on disembarkation from cruise ships across the whole country, both in protected areas and those that are not protected, and control this traffic like that.”