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We need whale poo 📷 WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...

Iceland 2013: Saga #1 – The Land of Fire and Ice

It certainly is a cliché but Iceland really is the land of fire and ice. Iceland is one of the most remote countries in the Western world and sits on the Mid-Atlantic ridge. The whole island is a hotspot for volcanic and geothermic activity and nowhere else on the planet are you able to witness the powerful forces of nature at work as evidenced by the glaciers, geysers, hot springs and waterfalls that stud this superlative landscape. Though some parts of Iceland haven’t changed since the Viking settlers over a thousand years ago, volcanic activity in other areas continues to shape the landscape. The island of Surtsey off the south coast, for example, was formed from a volcanic eruption and rose from the ocean in the mid-1960s making it one of the world’s newest islands and is, in fact, younger than me!

It is here that the vast North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, running right through the centre of the island – though in fact they are actually pulling away from each other at an eye-watering rate of ….one inch per year! Reykjavik is the main economical and administrative hub of Iceland and, with a population of 120,000, this cosmopolitan city is home to about a third of all Icelanders.

These are interesting times for Icelanders. Up until the financial crash of 2008, Iceland frequently topped the polls as having one of the highest standards of living in the world with Icelanders enjoying a good quality of life. The collapse of three of Iceland’s major commercial banks plunged the country into recession and exposed the fact that heavy reliance on banking made for a weak and vulnerable economy. A year later, in 2009, Iceland started the slow process of applying for membership of the European Union but with serious reservations about surrendering its rights to the nation’s considerable natural resources especially fisheries, agriculture and whaling. The majority of Icelanders remain opposed to EU membership and this viewpoint has recently strengthened given the problems suffered by other EU member states such as Greece and Spain and just this month the Icelandic government announced it was all but suspending EU accession talks while it prepared for parliamentary elections later in the year. If fisheries and agriculture account for a significant percentage of the Icelandic workforce then the tourism industry must come a very close third. For the last ten years the annual number of international tourists has comfortably exceeded the resident population. The ancient Icelandic culture and the stunning wildlife and landscapes are the main draw for tourists to this volcanic outcrop in the North Atlantic and I’m keen to explore how Iceland lives up to the expectations of people who flock here in their thousands. For the next five weeks I’ll be working as a whale watch naturalist in north west Iceland, guiding tourists as we explore Iceland’s rich natural heritage in search of, among other things, orcas and the northern lights!