Anglers Caught Over 45,000 Salmon in Icelandic Rivers This Year

salmon fishing iceland

A record 45,300 salmon were caught by anglers in Iceland this year. New figures issued by the Marine and Freshwater Institute (MFI) show that this year’s catch is 8.5% higher than the average catch in Iceland for the last 48 years, or since 1974. Fishermen caught around 8,800 more salmon in Icelandic rivers this year than they did in 2021.

Several factors have likely contributed to the increase in this year’s salmon catch. For one, smolt stocking programs have supplemented the natural production of Icelandic rivers. Some fish are also counted more than once because they’re caught more than once; anglers will often release salmon back into the rivers once they’ve caught them. Overall, this year’s salmon catch was higher in all regions of the country except the Westfjords.

See Also: Record number of pink salmon caught in 2021

Wild salmon catches have been down over the last seven years, hitting a low in 2019, when around 24,000 wild salmon were caught. This summer, however, 27,800 wild salmon were caught, which marks a 21.7% increase over last year.

The number of salmon that will migrate in a given year depends on the success of a whole generation of fish: how many smolt migrate from rivers to the sea, then survive adulthood in the ocean and return to spawn. There’s been an increase in the number of salmon dying in the North Atlantic, although MFI says the exact reason for this is not known. Several explanations have been offered as possibilities, however, including climate change, bycatch, the impact of fish farming, and changes in freshwater habitats.

British Billionaire Plans to Build Fishing Lodge

British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe hopes to build a 950 sq m [10,226 sq ft] fishing lodge on land he co-owns in Vopnafjörður, in Northeast Iceland, RÚV reports. According to the public zoning application, the development plans include an onsite restaurant and guesthouse.

Ratcliffe has purchased a significant amount of land in the area in recent years and owns a majority share of at least 30 properties, a minority share of nine, and fishing rights at two places within public lands around Selárdalur, home to one of the best salmon rivers in the country. In the past, he’s stated that he bought the land in the name of environmental protection and in order to protect Icelandic salmon stock.

In order for Ratcliffe and his fellow owners to move forward with their development plans, the land at Ytri Hlíð, which is currently zoned as agricultural land, would need to be rezoned as a retail and service area. Per the proposal, the landowners say the fishing lodge and accompanying facilities and intended to strengthen tourism in the area and make it a more competitive destination on the local market. If approved, the fishing lodge would overlook Vesturárdalur valley, as well as the Krossavíkur and Smjörfjöll mountains.

In order for the proposed lodge and facilities to be usable, significant infrastructural development would also be required: a road to the property would need to be paved, power lines would have to be laid, and, in order to provide drinking water, a well would either need to be drilled or else a spring in a nearby village would need to be tapped for the purpose.

The public has the opportunity to comment on the proposal until September 3. The Vopnafjörður district office will also hold an open house on Monday to present the development plans.

Dig Through Landslide to Redirect Salmon River

A fishing association will dig up 350,000 square metres (3.8 million sq ft) of soil in order to redirect Hítará river, which was diverted by a landslide two years ago. RÚV reports the project will likely cost more than ISK 100 million ($730,000/€660,000), but the Hítará Fishing Association says the investment is worth it, as the river is one of the most lucrative salmon fishing rivers in the country.

In the summer of 2018, unusually wet weather caused an enormous landslide on Fagraskógarfjall mountain that completely blocked Hítará river. Roughly one kilometre (0.6mi) wide and 1.5km (0.9mi) long, the landslide is thought to be the largest that has ever occurred in Iceland. Hítará eventually carved a new trajectory, but an important former salmon spawning area in its old path is now either dry or underneath the landslide.

Ólafur Sigvaldsson, chairman of Hítará Fishing Association, says the now-dry area represents about 20% of the former Hítará. By digging a ditch through the landslide six metres deep and 18 metres wide (20ft x 60ft), the group aims to return the river to its old path. The association has applied for ISK 60 million ($440,000/€400,000) for the project from the Fish Farming Fund (Fiskræktarsjóður) but expects to pay the rest of the cost itself. Ólafur says compared to the financial loss to the association that the decline in salmon represents, the investment is worth it.

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.

In Focus: Whose Land Is It Anyway?

In 2011, a Chinese businessman named Huang Nubo tried to buy one of the largest farmlands in Iceland, Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum. Since Nubo was neither an Icelandic citizen nor a resident of the European Economic Area (EEA), he was required to apply for an exemption from Iceland’s Ministry of the Interior in order to purchase […]

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