Sea Cucumber Company Receives Innovation Award

Aurora Seafood catches and processes sea cucumbers in the seas surrounding Iceland. The company received the Svifalda (Gliding wave) award for being a progressive and innovative business at The Seafood Conference Iceland this past weekend, Vísir reports. The annual conference was held in Harpa music and conference hall between November 15 and 16.

“We are the only European nation that catches sea cucumbers in some magnitude, the catch is probably going to reach six thousand tons this year. That’s a whole bunch,” said Davíð Freyr Jónsson, Aurora Seafood’s manager.

“We founded fishery and started to meddle in this business for real in 2016, but the first experimental fishing was done in 2003. We were laying low for a long time, but now the operation has begun to plant roots. We applied for funding from the European Union which we received last year, around ISK 200 million [$1.62 million, €1.42 million]. The funding went towards developing fishing gear and develop this machine for which we received the award,” Davíð stated.

Davíð says he is a landlubber who has converted to the seafaring lifestyle. “I’m raised in Fljótsdalshérað district but I have a captain’s certificate for all ships up to twelve metres long.” Such small boats aren’t a great fit for sea cucumber fishing, so a larger ship by the name of Klettur ÍS was purchased. The main fishing grounds for sea cucumbers in Icelandic waters is to the east and west of the country.

Sea cucumbers are considered a delicacy in parts of Asia, especially China. It’s considered a status food, eaten on special occasions and to honour guests. Rich in nutrients, sea cucumbers bear the name haishen, which can be translated as ‘ginseng of the sea’. Although sea cucumbers are mainly eaten in Asia, Icelanders also consume them, but often in another form. “Many Icelander use sea cucumber products themselves, maybe without knowing, in tablets to combat joint pain,” said Davíð.

The sea cucumbers are not processed by Aurora Seafood themselves as the processing is outsourced to a man in Stokkseyri. The fishing is performed by special traps which are dragged across the ocean floor. “We, of course, try to ensure that they cause as little a disturbance as possible,” Davíð stated. “It was an honour to receive the award. It’s confirmation that what we’re doing is interesting to others,” Davíð stated.

In Nepal to Retrieve Fallen Icelanders’ Remains

Mount Pumori

Icelandic mountaineer Leifur Örn Sveinsson is now on the slopes of Mount Pumori in the Himalayas. He is on a mission to retrieve the bodies of Kristinn Rúnarsson and Þorsteinn Guðjónsson, who died on an expedition on the mountain over 30 years ago, reports.

Kristinn and Þorsteinn were last seen on October 18, 1988, around a height of 6,600 metres on the mountain’s slopes. Their bodies were discovered recently by an American climber who came across them and determined by their identification that they were Icelanders.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the National Police Commissioner have assisted Icelandic Mountain Guides in organising the operations. Leifur Örn volunteered to travel to Nepal and attempt to retrieve the two bodies from the mountain. According to a statement from the deceased men’s relatives, the location of the bodies is considered fairly accessible so the operation should not put Leifur and others who may help him with the task in danger.

It could take a long time before Kristinn’s and Þorsteinn’s remains make it to Iceland, however, as transfer permits are needed from all countries they will be transported through.

Polish Ambassador Accuses Icelandic Media Source of “Fake News”

Polish March

Stundin newspaper received a formal letter of complaint from the Polish Ambassador to Iceland for their news story on a controversial march that took place on November 11 in Warsaw. The ambassador also complained to Iceland’s president and prime minister and asked Stundin to apologise for the news story and take it down.

Studin wrote about the march, which took place on the centennial of the re-establishment of Poland’s independence. Called the March of Independence, the event included Polish politicians as well as nationalist and far-right groups. More than 200,000 people are said to have taken part in the march.

Story called “fake news”

According to Stundin, Ambassador Gerard Pokruszyński accused the article’s author of calling all Poles who “love their fatherland” fascists or nazis. He also called the article “fake news” and said he hoped it wouldn’t have “serious consequences” in diplomatic relations between Poland and Iceland.

Journalist Jón Bjarki Magnússon, who wrote the article, says the newspaper has not received such a response to their writing in decades. He expressed concern at the ambassador’s letter, which had named him specifically.

He says Pokruszyński’s letter portrayed him as “an enemy of the Polish nation. It’s a really uncomfortable feeling to be portrayed that way. Because of course I’m not the enemy of any nation or people at all and I like Polish people, care about many of them, and go to Poland often.”

Messages “somewhere close to” threats

Jón Bjarki says he has also received “uncomfortable” messages from Polish people in Iceland in response to the news story. Though he says there have been no direct threats, the messages are “somewhere close to that.”

The journalist stated he considered the situation “very serious” but was choosing to interpret the action as “some kind of mistake” for the time being. He says Stundin will continue to cover current affairs in Poland, which fall 29 spots on the World Press Freedom Index between 2015 and 2016. “The state of affairs in the country in regards to freedom of press and then this reaction from the ambassador are not completely out of context,” Jón stated.

Government declines to respond

Pokruszyński sent a copy of his letter to the Icelandic Prime Minister and President, as well as the Parliament of Iceland and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The latter has stated it does not intent to respond to the letter.

PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir confirmed that the Prime Minister’s Office had received a copy of the letter and does not intent to respond to it. “It’s of course clear that in Iceland there is freedom of press and the government is not the right party to look to if a person considers they have been misrepresented in media coverage, therefore we will take no action on this issue as the Icelandic government has nothing to do with it.”

Jim Ratcliffe Acquires More Land in Iceland

Jim Ratcliffe

British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe has purchased holding company Grænaþing from investor Jóhannes Kristinsson, Fréttablaðið reports. With the acquisition, Ratcliffe has a 86.7% stake in the fishing association Strengur Ltd., which owns the fishing rights of Selá and Hofsá rivers in Vopnafjörður, Northeast Iceland.

Ratcliffe was named the UK’s richest person in May 2018, with a net worth of £21.05 billion. He now has owns over 30 properties in Vopnafjörður in whole or part, alongside other land in Iceland.

Chairman and CEO of Ineos chemicals group, Ratcliffe has been purchasing land in Northeast Iceland over the past several years with the stated goal of protecting salmon rivers in the area. When he purchased Grímsstaðir á fjöllum in 2016, Ratcliffe issued a statement saying the land was an important catchment area for salmon rivers in the region and the purchase was a step toward protecting wild Atlantic salmon stocks.

The purchase of Icelandic land by foreign nationals has been in the local media spotlight lately, with many locals concerned about foreign landowners’ intentions with the land. Minister of Justice Sigríður Á. Andersen has expressed her desire to tighten land purchase regulations and increase transparency in company ownership of land.