TWO Icelandic fish farming companies at the centre of a national row, which saw their applications for expansion suddenly withdrawn four months ago, have received Aquaculture Stewardship Council environmental certification for their production techniques.
Both SalMar backed Arnarlax and Arctic Sea Farms received the green light from Iceland’s Food Administration last year to expand their salmon production operations in the Westfjords region by up to 17,500 tonnes, creating around 200 jobs in the process.
But permission was unexpectedly withdrawn by the country’s Environmental and Natural Resources Complaints Committee following protests from environmental groups.
The row also involved the country’s prime minister Katrina Jakobsdóttir, who stepped into the debate at one point.
The two companies have since been granted temporary licences, which have laid down certain conditions and placed restrictions on their plans until they remedy a number of defects highlighted by the Environment Committee.
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is one of the strictest environmental certification bodies in aquaculture and known worldwide.
The award means all salmon produced in the Westfjords this year will be certified. Companies that pass the ASC certification commit themselves to minimising environmental impacts.
And any wild salmon stocks, birds, marine mammals and other organisms living close to the farms must be taken into account.
The Swiss certification company Bio Inspecta handled the ASC audit of Arnarlax. Its quality inspector, Roger Benz, said: ‘Now Arnarlax can offer customers salmon that is grown in a sustainable and sensible way.’
Kristian Matthiasson, managing director of Arnarlax, said: ‘We are very pleased to have an ASC environmental certification. This underlines our goal of sustainably pursuing aquaculture in harmony with nature and society.’
Arctic Sea Farms managing director Stein Ove Tveiten added: ‘The ASC certification is of great importance to us as our customers are looking at environmental impacts and making demands on them. We believe that this focus on environmental issues gives us a long-term competitive advantage.’
Picture: Iceland’s prime minister, Katrina Jakobsdóttir