About 180,000 people around the world have signed a petition to Icelandic, Norwegian, Scottish, and Irish authorities to stop granting licences for open net fish farming and to rescind currently valid licences in stages, Vísir reports. Iceland’s Parliamentary Speaker Steingrímur J. Sigfússon accepted the petition on Alþingi’s behalf yesterday.
Last spring, US outdoor gear company Patagonia and WeMove launched a petition with the support of Icelandic nature conservation groups calling on the Icelandic government to stop open-net fish farming. Jón Kaldal, a spokesperson for the Icelandic Wildlife Fund, says he is concerned about the effects of open net fish farming on wild salmon populations.
“Salmon farming in open net sea farms is carried out such that a net is hung in a frame and fish are set inside the net. All of the pollution and all of the waste; drugs, pesticides, and other things that go in the net and the pens, runs directly into the sea afterward,” Jón remarks. “These operations cause incredibly localised pollution. These are repeated outbreaks of [salmon] lice, just last week they were putting poison into the pens in the southern Westfjords, both at Arnarlax and Arctic Sea Farm, due to salmon lice which is rampant there.”
Salmon in open net farms also put wild salmon populations at risk, says Jón. Farmed salmon has previously escaped from pens in Iceland, posing a cross-breeding risk which could diminish wild salmon’s chances of survival. Iceland has the resources necessary for farming fish on land, says Jón, and points to the already developed arctic char farms in Iceland. Farming fish on land in closed pens eliminates the risk to wild fish populations, keeps waste separate from the surrounding environment, and keeps fish lice free. “We want to see that no more pens go into our fjords and that a clear line is laid down banning all open net sea farms and all of the farming moved up on land in the coming years,” Jón stated.
Open net salmon farms account for about three quarters of all fish farms in Iceland. Aquaculture production in Iceland is expected to double by 2021.