Seek Licence for Closed-Pen Salmon Farms

Salmon farming company AkvaFuture hopes to start closed-pen salmon farms in Ísafjarðardjúp in the Westfjords, RÚV reports. The company is applying for a licence to produce up to 6,000 tonnes of salmon annually.

Fish farming is a growing industry in Iceland. Open-net fish farms have been a topic of debate due to their impact on the surrounding marine environment. AkvaFuture CEO Rögnvaldur Guðmundsson stated in a press release that closed-pen farms reduce the environmental impact of fish farming as waste can be collected easily. He added that closed pens completely prevent salmon from being damaged by salmon lice. According to Rögnvaldur, the farms virtually eliminate the likelihood of fish escaping, which can only occur during transport or extreme situations.

AkvaFuture is a subsidiary of Norwegian company AkvaDesign which designs closed pens for fish farming and a sister company of AkvaFuture AS which operates closed-pen fish farms at three locations in Norway. “AkvaFuture ehf is engaged in developing sustainable and environmentally-friendly fish farming activities in Iceland,” the company’s website states.

Experiment With Fishing Krill

Eco Marine Iceland is experimenting with krill fishing in Ísafjarðardjúp in the Westfjords, RÚV reports. Project Manager Daníel Guðbjartsson says no decision has been made on how the krill would be used if the fishing proves commercially viable.

Krill are small crustaceans found in all oceans and are an important food source for marine life such as whales, seals, cod, and capelin. Krill are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, and have been previously used in oil, animal feed, and pharmaceuticals.

The research project is a cooperation between Eco Marine Iceland and Norwegian Innovation Technology Group. The latter owns the patent for the equipment, which uses light to attract the krill and then pumps them on board.

The Marine and Freshwater Research Institute is supervising the project, including monitoring the catch which so far has been quite small, well under 1% of stock in the fjord.

Companies Put Off Proving Equal Pay

Around 120 companies could face daily fines in January if they do not obtain equal pay certification. The certification, meant to combat the gender wage gap, requires businesses to prove they are paying men and women equally for comparable work. RÚV reports that out of 142 companies with 250 employees or more, only 16, or 11%, have received equal pay certification.

While smaller businesses have up to four years to become certified, companies of 250 employees were given one year to complete the process. Those who do not obtain the certification by the January deadline could face daily fines of up to ISK 50,000 ($470/€400).

“We have of course emphasised trying to encourage most companies to finish this before the end of the year,” says Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Minister of Social Affairs and Equality. He adds that the government has increased funding to the project in order to encourage companies to complete the process.

Only three companies in Iceland currently issue the certification, raising concerns that it will be impossible to complete it by the end of the year.

Icelandair Shares Dip

icelandair757

Icelandair shares fell sharply in the first trading of the day on the Iceland Stock Exchange, RÚV reports. Just before 10.00am, the company’s exchange rate had fallen by nearly 20%.

Björgólfur Jóhannsson, CEO of the company, announced his resignation yesterday and the company’s projected profits were lowered. Björgólfur stated earlier this month that Icelandair was well-positioned to respond to market challenges.

Icelandic airlines Icelandair and WOW Air have faced difficulties recently due to rising fuel costs, the slowing growth of tourism to Iceland, and competition from abroad. WOW Air is currently searching for investors who would loan the company up to ISK 12 billion ($113m/€96m) over the next 18 months. The two airlines are a key pillar of the tourism industry, transporting 80-85% of all travellers that visit Iceland.

Fish Exports Decrease by 15%

fishing in Iceland

Marine product exports decreased by over 15% in 2017, a new report from Statistics Iceland shows. RÚVreported first. The export production of marine products amounted to ISK 197 billion ($1.8b/€1.6b) in 2017, decreasing by 15.2% from the previous year.

In the 12-month period from August 2017 to July 2018 the total catch was under 1,286 thousand tonnes, a decrease of 11% from the preceding 12 months.

Costa Considers Opening Location in Iceland

Costa, the second-largest coffeehouse chain in the world, is proposing to open a franchise in Iceland, Vísir reports. The corporation is currently considering locations in downtown Reykjavík, although it is not currently known who will hold the franchise license in Iceland.

Costa, which was established by Italian immigrants to Britain in 1971, is the largest coffeehouse chain in Britain and operates 3,800 locations in 32 countries worldwide, the majority of which are in Britain. A spokesperson for the corporation says that the company’s goal is to operate 1,200 coffeehouses in China before 2020. The corporation was purchased in 1995 by Whitbread, which also owns and operates Premier Inn, the largest hotel chain in Britain.

Treasury Debt Falls by ISK 88 Billion

Treasury debt has fallen by over ISK 88 billion ($809m/€710m) over the past 12 months, Morgunblaðiðreports. In April 2018, Iceland’s treasury debt amounted to ISK 866 billion ($8b/€7b), or around 32% of GDP.

“This is largely explained by the sale of the state’s share in Arionbanki bank and the payment of government bonds due to Arionbanki,” stated Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson. “We have used these funds to settle debts, in addition to lowering the government’s credit balance at the Central Bank of Iceland.”

Over the past 12 months, the Central Bank of Iceland has bought back bonds issued in 2008 to refinance banks after the banking collapse.

Moddy’s Investor’s Service changed the Government of Iceland’s sovereign rating outlook to positive from stable last month, citing the lowering of government debt and the country’s improving economic resilience as the reasons behind the change.

Pharmaceutical Company Protests Use of Drug in Death Sentences

Pharmaceutical company Alvogen is spearheading a lawsuit objecting to the use of their drugs in the execution of a prisoner in Nevada. The company, whose lawsuit has been joined by Hikma Pharmaceuticals, also alleges that Nevada obtained the drugs for inmate Scott Raymond Dozier improperly.

Alvogen is an American pharmaceutical company founded by Icelander Vilhelm Róbert Wessman in 2009 with operations in Iceland since 2010. The company’s European headquarters are located in Reykjavík, and the company’s website states “a large part of the group’s global key managers are Icelanders.”

Nevada law states capital punishment should be carried out by lethal injection. Alvogen, however, have objected to the use of their sedative midazolam in the state’s executions. The Nevada Supreme Court has argued that the lawsuit is “part of a guerrilla war against the death penalty,” while Deputy Solicitor General Jordan T. Smith called it a “public relations wave.”

Dozier, 47, has said he wants the sentence to be carried out rather than spend his life in prison.

Icelandic media has picked up on the case, which has been making headlines in the United States. Read more about the case in English.

Króna Enjoying Most Stable Exchange Rate in Years

The Icelandic króna has enjoyed its most stable exchange rate in four years this summer, Kjarninnreports. According to an analysis of the exchange market that Íslandsbanki bank published on Thursday, this welcome stability is thought to be due to several factors, not least of which is increased confidence in the Icelandic economy.

The analysis compiled the króna’s exchange rate on a quarterly basis over the last year, which has been relatively stable over the summer, even as capital controls have largely been lifted and the Central Bank is no longer on the exchange market. The report indicates that the exchange rate has not be characterized by trends in the last quarters, but rather that the króna has fluctuated in relation to the average exchange rate of foreign currencies within a range of 7% since August of last year.

Even so, Íslandsbanki did add that short-term fluctuations in the exchange rate have increased in July and that volatility was at its highest since September 2017. Still, the exchange rate was largely the same at the end of the month as it was at the beginning.

Íslandsbanki’s report gives three reasons for the króna’s unusual exchange rate stability. For one, there has been a good balance between the inflow and outflow of currency of late. Icelandic investors have been investing considerable sums abroad, while foreign investment in Iceland has also increased somewhat. Secondly, they point out that there are still controls imposed on the movement of currency, for instance, the Central Bank’s so-called capital flow management measures which impose heavy duties on foreign entities which may want to invest in króna bonds. And third, the stability can be attributed to an increased trust in Iceland’s national economy, which can be traced to a significantly improved standing abroad, lower household, corporate, and public debt, higher credit ratings, increased patience towards short-term fluctuations, and a reduced likeliness of capital flight.

WOW Air Faces Competition in Pittsburgh

WOW air will no longer be the only airline offering direct flights between the U.S. city of Pittsburgh (PN) and Europe, Kjarninn reports. As of this week, British Airlines will now be competing with the Icelandic airline with its own Pittsburgh-based routes, which travel to and from London four times a week.

In June of last year, WOW air started offering flights to and from Pittsburgh four times a week and up until British Airlines’ arrival on the scene had been the only airline offering flights from the city to Europe year-round. Before that, flights from Pittsburgh to Europe had been limited to summer-only routes to Paris and Frankfurt. The year-round flights had proved popular, with 75.5% seat utilization.

Pittsburgh is the second largest city in Pennsylvania, with just over 300,000 inhabitants. Over the five months in 2017 that it was operating its Pittsburgh – Europe routes without competition, WOW transported 41,095 passengers to and from the city.