Minister Booed During Fish Farming Protest Last Saturday

Laxeldi Austurvöllur sjókví Lax

A protest against open-sea aquaculture drew a significant crowd at Austurvöllur Square in Reykjavík on Saturday. Minister of Environment, Energy, and Climate, Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, who was booed, acknowledged the need for action and expressed appreciation for the public’s defence of Icelandic nature.

Insecticide poured over dead fish

On Saturday, Austurvöllur Square in Reykjavík became the focal point of a protest against open-sea aquaculture in Iceland. Farmers and landowners from across the country converged at the square, with a procession originating from the University of Iceland’s parking area leading up to the main event at Austurvöllur.

The event featured several speakers, including fisherman Árni Pétur Hilmarsson and biologist Jóhannes Sturlaugsson. During his address, Sturlaugsson emphatically stated, “We all protest!” – a reference to a protest of Danish imposition in the 19th century led by Independence leader Jón Sigurðssons – a sentiment that garnered considerable applause from the attendees.

Musician Bubbi Morthens set the tone for the protest by performing two songs to open the event. Inga Lind Karlsdóttir took on the role of moderator, guiding the event and addressing the gathered crowd.

As reported by Vísir, the protest witnessed an unexpected turn of events towards its conclusion. Inga Lind directed the protestors to pour insecticide over Austurvöllur and on dead fish, using containers that the organisers had placed near the stage; the act was meant to symbolise the numerous instances where poison has been released into the fjords of the country.

Minister booed by protestors

As noted by RÚV, Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, the Minister of Environment, Energy, and Climate, faced criticism for the government’s inaction regarding salmon farming issues at the protest. He stated that the matter did not fall under the purview of his ministry, acknowledging, however, the challenge posed by the organisers for the authorities to take responsibility, protect nature, and prohibit open-sea aquaculture near the coast.

Following this, Guðlaugur Þór expressed appreciation for the significant turnout at the protest and thanked the public for defending Icelandic nature. There were subsequent calls for the authorities to take similar actions:

“People can criticise me as they wish. But if one looks at what I’ve said and done, perhaps there would be less of it. That’s beside the point, as I’m not the main focus here. That’s evident. Your message is clear, and I thank you for taking the initiative to organise this, for showing up and demonstrating solidarity with Icelandic nature. Actions will be taken based on this, and this meeting truly matters. I sincerely thank you for that,” Guðlaugur Þór remarked.

In an interview with Vísir after his speech, Guðlaugur Þór iterated that aquaculture was not within his purview but acknowledged its significance, referring to the alleged violations of Arctic Sea Farm.