Fewer tourists visit Silfra, but safety has increased
Since safety standards were increased last year at Silfra fissure in Þingvelllir National Park, the number of people who come there to go scuba diving is down by 60-70 percent, Morgunblaðið reports. Demand for snorkeling has remained the same since safety measures were increased.
The stricter safety standards have been well received, according to Jón Þór Gunnarsson, CEO of Arctic Adventures, a company that offers diving tours, and Einar Á. E. Sæmundsen, director of Þingvellir National Park.
Almost a year and a half ago, a US male in his 60s died while snorkeling in the fissure. His death was the fifth fatality in Silfra in seven years. The site was subsequently closed on March 10, last year, and reopened three days later, once new safety rules had been implemented. Even stricter rules were implemented last month.
“There is no question about it that the changes made, in consultation with the companies [offering diving tours], the Environment Agency and the Ministry for the Environment and the National Park have been very successful. All involved, including the companies, are very pleased with how it works out,” Jón states.
No serious accidents or incidents have occurred in Silfra since safety measures were increased, according to Einar. He reports that a paramedic from the South Iceland Health Center is now on site, making the first response very good.
He notes that in the wake of serious accidents in Silfra, it was essential to implement stricter safety measures. “We can never prevent accidents completely, neither in Silfra nor in anything we do, but we must do all we can to fill in all the holes there are, and that’s what we’ve been doing in recent years,” he explains.
The rules implemented in March of last year include reducing the number of divers assigned to each guide, requiring prior experience in a dry suit, a certificate of good physical and mental health, directing access to the fissure, and a requirement that people can swim.
Between 50,000 and 60,000 tourists visit Silfra a year to go scuba diving or snorkeling.