‘DON’T shut us out of plans to expand aquaculture’ – that’s the plea from a growing number of coastal communities in Iceland following a major risk assessment on the genetic impact of salmon farming on wild fish stocks.
Progressive Party MP Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson pleaded in a recent article that there are no grounds for closing the Isafjord region, which he represents, to aquaculture.
And two fishing communities on Iceland’s north east coast have also expressed fears they could be ignored, resulting in economic stagnation.
A recent assessment ordered by Iceland’s Marine Research Institute (MRI) warned against siting fish farms in areas such as Isafjord.
Sveinsson has spoken out on the positive social impact of fish farming, adding that it should be possible to devise effective measures to prevent farmed and wild salmon becoming mixed up.
He said there was no reason why Iceland should not be able to build fish farms by careful planning and learning from the mistakes made in other countries.
He also referred to the decline in economic activity in his region over the last 30 years. The state, he added, should not prevent what was ‘environmentally friendly food production’.
Iceland has signalled a major expansion of its fish farming operations, but with most of the production based in the west of the country. Iceland eventually plans to produce more than 70,000 tonnes of farmed salmon each year.
Meanwhile, the town council in Fjarðabyggð (population 4,675) and the municipal council of Djúpavogshreppur (population 450) in the east of the country have submitted a resolution saying they were deeply concerned about the future of fish farming in their region in the light of the MRI report.
They are arguing that experience in the Westfjords has shown that aquaculture remains one of the main opportunities for the economic and social development of isolated rural communities such as Fjarðabyggð and Djúpavogshreppur.
Their claim is backed up by a report from the regional employment and development department which showed that the growth in aquaculture had brought positive benefits to rural communities by increasing employment and reversing population decline.
The two communities have asked for a meeting with the Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture, Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, and the senior representatives at the Marine Research Institute at the ‘earliest opportunity’ so they can put their case and counter some of the claims in the MRI report.