Icelandic Fish Beer a Hit at Seafood Expo Global

A beer made with Icelandic capelin roe, or masago, was a hit at the Seafood Expo Global conference that took place in Barcelona, Spain April 25-27, mbl.is reports. Produced by Icelandic Asia, the beer is brewed with masago and shiso, a Japanese herb.

The beer was first introduced at the conference last year, but the shiso in this year’s batch is a new addition. “It was a hit last year and we decided to make a new version of it for this expo and it’s been a hit too,” stated Agnes Guðmundsdóttir, Icelandic Asia’s director of sales. The beer’s logo was designed by AI and the cans featured a QR code that drinkers could scan to win prizes and merchandise from Japan. Last year’s Masago Beer is pictured in the post below.

Masago is a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine, including sushi. The Masago Beer was specially brewed for the event and is not for sale elsewhere. Readers craving an Icelandic drink with a fishy ingredient can try Collab, a caffeinated soda with fish collagen that has become popular in Iceland in recent years.

Icelandic Caviar to Hit Markets in Two Months

icelandic caviar

Icelandic caviar will be making its first entry into the market in two months.

The caviar, produced by the Ólafsfjörður-based Northern Sturgeon Company, will be the first of its kind produced in Iceland. Sturgeon caviar is, of course, well-known as a luxury food.

Roe and milt were extracted from sturgeons that were in captivity in Ólafsfjörður and were harvested at the end of last month.

Eyþór Eyjólfsson, chairperson of the Northern Sturgeon Company, stated to Morgunblaðið that he is pleased with how the extraction of roe from the sturgeon went and with the results of the work: “It’s exhausting, but satisfying work. If you’re interested in fish farming, then this is part of one’s life.”

Part of the roe was taken to enlarge the stock. The other part of the roe is being processed into caviar under license by a German firm. The caviar is scheduled to be ready for consumption and sale in early June.

Eyþór stated to Morgunblaðið that he’s confident the new Icelandic caviar will find a market, given how sought-after and valuable a commodity sturgeon caviar has become. Many buyers, both domestic and international, have already been in contact. Promising international markets currently include the United States and the United Kingdom.

Net Profit

In 2021, when a lower capelin quota was issued in Iceland than had been anticipated, Landsbankinn bank lowered its GDP growth forecast for the year from 3.4 to 3.3%. Capelin may be a little fish, but as a key food source for many other marine species, it makes a big impact on Iceland’s economy and ecology. Commercially, capelin is one of the most important fish stocks in Iceland, accounting for around 13% of export earnings. Only cod brings in more, and it bears pointing out that cod is also dependent on capelin, which may account for up to 40% of its total food. 

Stocks of capelin in Icelandic waters have been volatile, making it difficult to predict or plan fishing seasons. The fish have a short life cycle, procreating only once before their ultimate demise, which makes the stock vulnerable to overfishing and changes in the marine environment. In 2019 and 2020, in accordance with the recommendations of Iceland’s Marine Research Institute, no capelin quota was issued at all, while last year’s catch amounted to nearly 600,000 tonnes. In recent years, however, capelin catch has averaged around 350,000 tonnes annually. The bulk of the quota is caught during four weeks in spring.

Capelin is often described as the most ecologically important fish species in Icelandic waters. It is the main source of food for Atlantic cod (another commercially important species in Iceland), and is also a food source for whales, seals, squid, mackerel, and seabirds.

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Icelandic boats began fishing capelin in the late 1960s when herring stocks in Icelandic waters collapsed.

 

Net Profit

Capelin is a small forage fish belonging to the smelt family and is found in the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Arctic oceans. It is silver in colour and usually measures between 15-18 cm long [6-7 in].

Golli. A Brim ship in Akranes, West Iceland

About 80% of capelin caught in Iceland is used to produce fishmeal and oil, while a small amount (less than 20%) is used to produce roe for human consumption. The roe, called masago, is yellow in colour and is popularly used in sushi. 

Net Profit

Icelandic fishing boats caught some 477,000 tonnes of capelin last season, the full quota issued. This included around 20,000 tonnes of roe. The total value of the catch is estimated at around ISK 42-45 billion [$305 million, €280 million].

Up until the early 80s, Icelanders sometimes caught over a million tonnes of capelin in a single season. 

Net Profit

Despite being common in Icelandic fishing nets, capelin is not normally sold in local stores. Hólmgeir Einarsson, a seafood store owner in Reykjavík, decided to stock some this year and has so far sold over 200 kilos [440 lbs]. He says the primary purchasers have been immigrants, who are familiar with the fish from abroad. Some Reykjavík restaurants are also discovering this important fish.

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Icelandic capelin migrate seasonally. In spring and summer, they go north of the Icelandic mainland to feed in the plankton-rich waters between Greenland, Iceland, and Jan Mayen.

Net Profit

Due to rising sea temperatures, capelin has moved further north in search of colder waters. Young capelin now tend to dwell near and under the sea ice around Greenland, making stock sizes difficult to assess.

Climate change and changes in the ocean’s temperature have a direct effect on capelin behaviour. It’s one of the most direct effects of climate change Icelanders can expect in the coming years.

Net Profit

Tubs of roe ready for export.

The capelin season takes place in February and March. The window to catch roe-filled capelin before it spawns is even shorter, only around 20-25 days. In that time, a sailor on a capelin fishing boat can expect to earn an Icelandic worker’s annual salary. That is, if capelin catch quotas, and the weather, are favourable that year.

Net Profit

The capelin season takes place in February and March. The window to catch roe-filled capelin before it spawns is even shorter, only around 20-25 days. In that time, a sailor on a capelin fishing boat can expect to earn an Icelandic worker’s annual salary. That is, if capelin catch quotas, and the weather, are favourable that year.

Ólafur Örn Ólafsson, restaurateur at Brút in the Reykjavík city centre, occasionally serves roe-filled capelin.