British Billionaire Buys Land to Protect Salmon

Jim Ratcliffe

British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe says his most recent land purchase in Iceland is part of ongoing measures to protect the country’s wild salmon stocks. Ratcliffe stated as much in a press release sent to RÚV this morning. The ultimate goal is to make salmon fishing in Iceland the best and most sustainable in the world.

The press release states that the British mogul has expanded his plans of investment in local projects in Iceland’s northeast region with the aim to protect salmon in the area’s main fishing rivers. Ratcliffe aims to protect the rivers’ surrounding land as well as the fragile ecosystem of the area as a whole.

“Overfishing threatens the North Atlantic salmon stock and it is decreasing in rivers everywhere. The north-eastern part of Iceland is one of few salmon spawning areas that has escaped [this trend] and I want to do what I can to protect the area,” Ratcliffe is quoted as saying in the press release. Ratcliffe owns other properties in the region, for example in Vopnafjörður, where he has made efforts toward conserving the unique nature of the area alongside residents and other landowners.

Holistic approach to conservation

The press release outlines conservation measures planned for the next five years, which include expanding the salmon spawning area by installing salmon ladders in Hafralónsá, Hofsá, and Miðfjarðará rivers in Vopnafjörður. Fertilised roe will also be released into the rivers, as well as into Selá, where Ratcliffe’s efforts are reportedly bearing fruit through a growing salmon population.

In collaboration with communities in the northeast, Ratcliffe is also working to combat soil erosion and improving the ecosystems surrounding salmon rivers, in part by supporting reforestation efforts. He is also conducting a long-term study of the wellbeing of Icelandic salmon in rivers and out at sea, in collaboration with the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute as well as local and international universities.

Foreigners’ land purchase a hot topic

Land purchase by foreigners has been in the public discourse lately, with many pointing out that Iceland’s regulations regarding the purchase of land by foreigners is more lax than in neighbouring countries. The Icelandic government is currently reviewing the existing legislation with the consideration of tightening requirements for land purchase.

Read more: Whose Land Is It Anyway?

Puppeteer Named Reykjavík Resident of the Year

Puppeteer Helga Steffensen was named Reykjavík Resident of the Year on Thursday, RÚV reports. Every year, the mayor invites guests of honour to open the fishing season with him at the Elliðaár river on the east side of Reykjavík. The first person to catch a salmon during the excursion is then named the honorary citizen of the year.

Helga caught a male salmon of around seven or eight pounds; it only took her 15 minutes catch the fish and reel it in. Heiða runs the Brúðubíllinn, or “Puppet Car,” which puts on free puppet shows for children each summer. Helga has been running the roving puppet theatre for 39 years, and has put on over 60 plays in that time.

“This is really cool and I’m very proud,” remarked Helga after catching her fish. When asked what stood out to her about her decades of work as a puppeteer, she was quick to answer. “It’s the kids. I’m right there with our youngest citizens from cradle to pram. I’m always working to make them happy,” she said. Helga said that this summer had been particularly fun for her, as the weather has been so good.

This is the ninth year that the title of Reykjavík Resident of the Year has been given out. Last year’s honouree was Bergþór Grétar Böðvarsson, who runs the grassroots organization called FC Sækó (FC Psycho) that aims to improve people’s mental health through football.

See the Puppet Car’s summer schedule here.