One company per fjord: Government sets out plan to transform Iceland’s aquaculture industry

This policy is the first attempt to create a longterm framework for the development of aquaculture in Iceland.

Iceland’s Ministry of Food has revealed a new policy draft that could potentially reshape the country’s thriving aquaculture sector.

The draft, unveiled on Wednesday, outlines a plan to enhance oversight on the aquaculture industry and requires producers to pay for the utilization of natural resources.

“Fee collection from the sector must reflect that [fish farming] is a matter of utilising limited resources,” said Food, Fisheries and Agriculture Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir.

“It is fundamental that those who profit from the use of the country’s natural resources pay a fair price for it. But it is equally important that we set ourselves ambitious, measurable goals in environmental matters and set a timetable on the way to those goals.”

The country’s budding salmon farming industry has been under scrutiny of late due to concerns about farmed fish mixing with the Icelandic salmon population. A recent incident involving fish escaping from a damaged pen in Patreksfjörður has intensified these concerns.

Read more: Farmed salmon caught in rivers across northwest Iceland following escape last month

From a modest 8,300 metric tons in 2014, the country has witnessed a huge surge in production, with the latest 2022 figures showing production of more than 51,000 tons.

The export value of these fish, which accounted for ISK 1.4 billion ($10.3 million) in 2014, has rocketed to to ISK 40.5 billion ($298 million) by 2022.

As part of the new policy, Svavarsdóttir outlined a zero-tolerance approach to violations.

According to the proposed regulations, companies involved in sea pen farming might see their permits withdrawn if their operations significantly impact the wild salmon population..

The draft policy, however, does not impose specific caps or limits on tonnage, the number of farms, or farming areas.

Svavarsdóttir highlighted the impracticality of setting such constraints, citing the variable nature of the ecosystem and operational conditions.

Read more: Five ways in which Iceland’s radical new policy will revolutionise salmon farming in the country

One notable proposal in the policy is the allocation of each fjord or demarcated sea area to a single operator. This measure aims to facilitate operational anomaly investigations and disease spread limitation. Companies have until 2028 to adjust their operations to meet these new licensing conditions.

“We’re going to let the free market take care of this,” said Svavarsdóttir. “So in 2028, a rule will be introduced into the law that would mean that if two or more companies are within the same defined area, they no longer meet the conditions of the license and will lose it.”


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