Björk Among Plaintiffs in Fish Farming Case

björk 1997

The Westfjords Police will continue to investigate the escape of 3,500 salmons last August from a fish farm in Patreksfjörður run by the company Arctic Fish. Police had previously ended their investigation, but a motion from dozens of interested parties forced the issue, reports.

Among the plaintiffs was internationally renowned singer Björk Guðmundsdóttir. Björk is a member of AEGIS, a pressure group against offshore aquaculture, operating on behalf of the Icelandic Wildlife Fund (IWF).

Disastrous environmental effects

Police had dropped their investigation into whether Arctic Fish had breached laws governing fish farming in December of last year. Fish escaping from fish farms can have disastrous environmental effects. The farmed fish can carry parasites deadly to wild fish or even breed with the wild fish, producing offsprings that can not survive in nature.

The motion from environmental groups and angling societies caused the Public Prosecutor to intervene and have the police reopen the case. Gunnar Örn Petersen, the manager of the Federation of Icelandic River Owners, said that the Westfjord police commissioner was either incompetent or biased in the case. The commissioner’s stance had been that Arctic Fish could not be held liable for the circumstances leading to the escape.

Wild salmon safety in the public interest

The Public Prosecutor, however, noted that the manager and, in some cases, board members of Arctic Fish could be responsible for the internal monitoring of conditions and protocols regarding fish farming. They went on to state that all plaintiffs were eligible to file a motion in this case, as it pertains to the public interest of safeguarding the wild salmon population.

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Two Injured in Tálknafjörður Fire

Two people have been transported to hospital with minor burns due to a fire at a fish fry farm in Tálknafjörður in the Westfjords, RÚV reports. The fire broke out in a building at the site that was still under construction. Fire crews continued to fight the flames as of 12:30 PM this afternoon and were doing their best to protect neighbouring buildings.

The area around the fire has been evacuated, and firefighting crews from other Westfjords towns, including Patreksfjörður and Ísafjörður, have been called in to help. Westfjords police had closed roads through the area and warned travellers and locals to respect them. Firefighting crews have managed to protect areas of the site that carry a risk of explosion, such as oil tanks and power stations.

The new building, now heavily damaged, was expected to cost around ISK 4 billion [$27.8 million, €26.2 million]. Arctic Fish representatives have stated the total cost of the damage is as of yet unknown. Authorities say the fire is now under control but that crews will continue working for quite a long time. The fire did not reach any other buildings or affect any of the fish at the farm.

Salmon Farm Rips Open in Dýrafjörður

salmon farm open net fish farm

A tear was discovered in one of Arctic Fish’s open-sea fish farms in Dýrafjörður in the Westfjords. A notice on the company’s website says the tear was discovered during routine inspection and is located at a depth of about 20 metres (65 feet).

The Directorate of Fisheries has been notified of the incident and a contingency plan activated. The open-net farm contains around 170,000 salmon, weighing on average 2.4kg (5.2lbs) each.

Icelandic Fish Farm Production Expected to Double by 2021

salmon farming fish farming fish farm salmon farm Bíldudalur - Arnarfjörður - Arnarlax - laxeldi


Aquaculture production in Iceland is expected to double in the next two years, according to a press release from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs. The export value of the industry could grow to ISK 40 billion ($322m/€294m) per year by 2021, or nearly 3% of national exports. Continued growth is projected after 2021 as well.

Open-net salmon farms account for around three quarters of all fish farms in Iceland. Total licenced production volume for the aquaculture industry was almost doubled this year and is now about 85,000 tonnes per year. It will take producers about two years to reach full production capacity, however, and growth will depend on the development of individual companies.

Companies likely won’t have trouble finding customers abroad, however. New markets are opening up: notably, Chinese customs authorities recently gave Arctic Fish the green light to export their farmed salmon to the country.

Fish farms catching up to traditional fishing

Producers are already well on their way to reaching the doubled production volume: so far this year, export value of farmed fish has grown by 60% compared to 2018, and now accounts for about 1% of all exports. If prices remain unchanged, the export value of farmed fish is expected to double by 2021, putting it on par with the traditional fishing industry.

While growth in the industry is expected beyond 2021 as well, the Environment Agency has placed limits on how much farmed fish can be produced in individual fjords, and in many locations fish farms are approaching these limits.

Salmon Farms Granted Exemption by Environment Ministry

Salmon Farm.

Salmon farming companies Arctic Fish and Arnarlax were granted an exemption earlier this week by the Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources, RÚV reports. The exemption allows the companies to continue operating for the time being, while they aim to address the environmental shortcomings that caused their licences to be revoked last month. Iceland’s growing aquaculture industry has been in the local media spotlight lately due to concerns of its environmental impact.

The operational licenses of the companies for salmon farming in open-net sea pens in Patreksfjörður and Tálknafjörður were revoked in October due to shortcomings in environmental assessment. Shortly following the removal of the licences, parliament passed a law giving the Minister of Fisheries authority to grant provisional licences for fish farming. The Minister granted the companies such licences earlier this month. Now the Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources has granted the companies an exemption for an operating licence for a period of ten months.

The temporary licences are valid for a total of 4,000 tonnes of salmon, a fraction of the companies’ previous licence for 17,500 tonnes which was revoked. In the exemption, it is requested the companies actively work to remedy the environmental deficiencies that caused their licences to be revoked.

A town hall meeting will be held in Tálknafjörður for residents of the affected areas today, with representatives from the two companies present to answer questions.