Escaped Farmed Salmon Caught in an Icelandic River

The farmed salmon is larger than the wild salmon, wounded by salmon lice, with torn tails and damaged gill flaps.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1544118445301{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]Today Matís, a government-owned, non-profit, independent research company, confirmed by DNA testing that two salmon recently caught in Fífustaðadalsá river in Arnarfjörður fjord were farmed salmon of a Norwegian origin. The fjord is where Iceland’s largest salmon farming company, Arnarlax, keeps their open sea pens and earlier this year, a considerable number of farmed salmon of Norwegian origin escaped their pens. The exact number of the escaped fish couldn’t be established. The salmon caught in the small  Fífustaðadalsá were female and ready to spawn, which could have had devastating consequences for the wild salmon stock in the river.

Female fish about to spawn

Biologist Jóhannes Sturlaugsson has been monitoring fish stocks of three small rivers in Ketildalir valley by Arnarfjörður fjord for four years. The wild stocks in these rivers are very small, which makes it easy to spot any changes. Jóhannes caught every fish in the Fífustaðadalsá river with dip nets, measured, and tagged them, before releasing them. The native spawning stock consisted of twenty salmon and their spawning season was almost over. But in the river, they also caught the two large female fish that looked markedly different. They had large wounds caused by salmon lice, damaged fins and gill flaps, and torn tails: typical characteristics of farmed salmon. Their origin was later confirmed by DNA tests.

“Four farmed salmon have been caught in Icelandic fishing rivers this year. These two make for a marked increase and they are the first confirmed examples of mature farmed salmon about to spawn in an Icelandic river. I think we caught them in the eleventh hour. One would have spawned in a matter of hours and the other in a few days,” Jóhannes says.

Native wild salmon under threat

Asked about what’s at stake if farmed salmon spawn in an Icelandic river, Jóhannes points to Norway as an example. Wild Norwegian salmon is struggling, even though their farmed salmon is a Norwegian stock. “Each river has a special stock of salmon, that has adapted to the environment and evolved for thousands of years, each stock differing slightly in when it migrates to the sea, how long it stays there, how it spawns, how it’s built to jump waterfalls and so on. When you mix foreign DNA into the gene pool the damage is done. The adaptation might disappear, and the worst-case scenario is that the stock goes extinct.”

Jóhannes says there’s even more risk involved. “Farmed salmon spawns later than wild salmon and when doing so can dig up their eggs and replace them with its own, destroying the eggs laid out earlier by native salmon.”

A more detailed interview with Jóhannes can be found in the Dec-Jan issue of Iceland Review, out now. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][mk_gallery images=”107304,107300,107296,107298″ column=”2″ image_size=”full” hover_scenarios=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Dentists Warn of Crackling, Nuts, and Pellets

ptarmigan hunter in snow

Elín Sigurgeirsdóttir, head of the Dentist Association of Iceland, has warned people to bite carefully when feasting on delicacies this Christmas, reports. It’s not uncommon this time of year for people to seek the help of dentists as they break their teeth chomping on nuts as well as particularly crisp crackling. Cracklings are crisp pork fat surrounding roasted pork, a favoured festive delicacy in Iceland.

“Us dentists become particularly aware of this problem around this time of year. Really, it happens as soon as Christmas parties start.”, Elín said. “People break their teeth by crunching the crackling on pork roast. The culprit can sometimes be nut shells which haven’t been removed appropriately and are stuck to the nut, which is put into the sauce or some dish, so the shell isn’t visible and people chomp on it.”

Elín states that the most severe of the cases involve pellets still found in rock ptarmigans, a favoured Christmas delicacy of many Icelanders.

Sink Or Swim

Biologist Jóhannes Sturlaugsson in Þingvallavatn with brown trout

“Some things in nature naturally inspire an emotional response. The Þingvallavatn lake brown trout is one of these phenomena. It’s a fantastical, mythical creature,” says biologist Jóhannes Sturlaugsson. For the last two decades, he has studied the brown trout stock in the lake, unique in Iceland and even the world. Trout numbers in the lake are up, after years of decline. That’s good news, but the same can’t be said for another of Jóhannes’ research subjects: wild salmon, currently under threat.

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Route 1 Partially Closed Due to Difficult Weather Conditions

Route 1, the main ring road around the country, has been partially closed in South Iceland due to weather, Rúv reports. The route is closed from Hvolsvöllur to Vík, as well as between Núpsstaðir and Kvísker.

A yellow weather alert has been released from the Icelandic Met Office for South Iceland as well as parts of South East Iceland. Easterly winds between 18-25 metres per second are forecast. Gusts of wind are expected to reach 50 metres per second next to mountains. The sharpest winds are below Eyjafjöll mountains in Mýrdal (close to Vík) and in Öræfi (east of Kirkjubæjarklaustur). The storm climaxed this morning and will remain near climax until noon. The Met Office expects it to subside later today, at around 16:00 in South Iceland and 20:00 in South East Iceland.

Highways are expected to be troublesome due to slippery ice. In places, snow and sludge cover the roads.

Travellers are advised to proceed with caution, and follow updates on the Icelandic Met Office’s website