The Preservation of Surtsey


Owing to the scientific research projects that are carried out on Surtsey, the island was declared a nature reserve in 1965 by the Environment and Food Agency. This declaration of preservation was renewed in 1974 with reference to new nature conservation legislation. The decleration was yet renewed in January 2006.

The renewed declaration covers now the entire volcano, whether above the surface of the sea or underwater, including the craters of Jólnir, Syrtlingur and Surtla, together with a specified area of ocean around the island (map). The objective of declaring Surtsey a protected area is to ensure that development of the island will be in keeping with the principles of nature itself. The purpose of conservation is to ensure that colonisation by plants and animals, biotic succession and the shaping of geological formations will be as natural as possible, and that human disruption will be minimised.

The following rules apply in the Surtsey Nature Reserve:

1. It is prohibited to visit Surtsey without a permit from the Surtsey Research Society, which manages all scientific research conducted on the island. The Environment and Food Agency has authorized the Society to supervise all activity on Surtsey.

2. It is prohibited to disturb anything on Surtsey. In order to build permanent facilities there, a permit from the Environment and Food Agency is required.

3. It is prohibited to transfer living animals, plants, seeds, or plant parts to the island.

4. It is prohibited to leave any form of waste on or near the island.

5. All use of firearms is prohibited within a distance of 2 km from the island.

Information on sanctions for violation of these rules can be found in the Nature Conversation Act (in Icelandic).