Sprat: New Fish Species Breeding Off Iceland’s Coast

Researchers have confirmed that the fish species sprat is spawning in Icelandic waters, according to a new report from Iceland’s Marine and Freshwater Research Institute. Sprat has been found in significant numbers off the south and west coast and spawned near Ísafjarðardjúp fjord in the Westfjords last year. Sprat first appeared near the Icelandic coast in 2017, and its numbers have been increasing since. 

Probably originate from Faroese waters

As seen in the picture above, sprat is not dissimilar to herring, a commercial species important in Icelands fishing industry. It has likely reproduced in more locations than just near Ísafjarðardjúp, according to the report. Over the past few years, Icelandic vessels have fished the species in greater numbers.

The most likely explanation for the appearance of sprat is that sprat larvae were carried to Icelandic waters by ocean currents before hatching near the coast of Iceland. Approximately 1,000 tonnes of sprat was fished by Faroese vessels in 2020, and the larvae likely originated from Faroese waters; however, no eggs, larvae, or mature sprat have been found in the waters between Iceland and the Faroe Islands, says Jón Sólmundsson, an ichthyologist with the Marine & Freshwater Research Institute, and who recently authored an article on sprat in the magazine Náttúrufræðingurinn

Even though sprat was first fished near Iceland in 2017, Jón believes that the species had been fished by Icelandic fishing vessels earlier, given its similarity in appearance to young herring. 

Only time will tell

Sprat is the common name applied to a group of forage fish belonging to the genus Sprattus in the family Clupeidae. Sprat is a highly active, small, oily fish, which travels in sizeable schools with other fish and swims continuously throughout the day. According to Jón, it is unclear whether sprat will begin to breed near the Icelandic coast more permanently; water temperature and other environmental factors will determine whether sprat will become an important species within Icelandic fishing grounds.

Heaved on to Helicopter After Sailboat Stranded

TF-GRÓ Icelandic Coast Guard Helicopter

The Icelandic Coast Guard rescued four sailors by helicopter last night after their boat stranded on Æðey island in Ísafjarðardjúp in the Westfjords. The Coast Guard command centre received a report of the stranding just after midnight last night.

The sailboat did not spring a leak when it stranded, and while the weather was not good, the four crew members remained safe while they waited for assistance. Ships that were called to the scene could not approach the sailboat due to the weather, wind, and shallow water where the boat was located. The crew was finally rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter that arrived at the scene just before 2:00 AM. By 2:15 AM the four crew members (one Icelander and three UK citizens) had been lifted into the aircraft. The sailboat was recovered today and is in fine shape.

The rescue was captured on video and can be seen below.


Experiment With Fishing Krill

Eco Marine Iceland is experimenting with krill fishing in Ísafjarðardjúp in the Westfjords, RÚV reports. Project Manager Daníel Guðbjartsson says no decision has been made on how the krill would be used if the fishing proves commercially viable.

Krill are small crustaceans found in all oceans and are an important food source for marine life such as whales, seals, cod, and capelin. Krill are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, and have been previously used in oil, animal feed, and pharmaceuticals.

The research project is a cooperation between Eco Marine Iceland and Norwegian Innovation Technology Group. The latter owns the patent for the equipment, which uses light to attract the krill and then pumps them on board.

The Marine and Freshwater Research Institute is supervising the project, including monitoring the catch which so far has been quite small, well under 1% of stock in the fjord.