Managing director of the Federation of Icelandic Fishing Vessel Owners (LÍÚ), Fridrik J. Arngrímsson, stated that the parasite, which is currently causing infection in the Icelandic herring stock, does not make the fish unfit for human consumption, although it does affects its appearance.
“The parasite disfigures the herring, making it look repelling. The infected herring has therefore only been used for rendering,” Arngrímsson told icelandreview.com, emphasizing that, “The largest part of the herring caught this fall is free of the infection, which was detected at the end of November.”
The parasite, Ichtyophonus hoferi, is not new. It appears with regular intervals, also around Norway and by the east coast of the USA. However, it has not visibly affected the Icelandic herring stock until now, Arngrímsson explained.
“The loss in revenue is inconvenient, especially considering the economic situation,” Arngrímsson said. “It is therefore very important to find out what effect this infection will have on the [herring] stock in coming years and what the consequences will be for herring fishing in Iceland.”
“We have with great care managed to build up the [herring] stock in the past years and it seems to me that we now have to build it up all over again,” Arngrímsson said.
Herring, affectionately referred to in Iceland as the “silver of the sea,” was a valuable source of income for the country in the 1950s and 60s and many villages, such as Siglufjördur in the north (where there is now a herring museum), based their economies on herring fishing.
Herring was, however, overfished. By 1969 there was simply no more herring to be had and the Icelandic herring stock has only recently begun to recover.