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Iceland reaches record salmon production in 2021 with 35% more than a year earlier

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The farmed salmon production in Iceland increased by over 12 thousand tonnes last year, a 35% more. The aquaculture experts says that nowhere in the world was such an increase in Atlantic salmon production. Total production in aquaculture in the country increased slightly less, or by 31%.

More than 46 thousand tonnes of salmon were produced last year, according to information from the Food Administration. That is about three thousand tons more than had been expected.

Gísli Jónsson, veterinarian for fish diseases at Mast, said to Morgunblaðið that two things in particular led to the increase being greater than he had expected. In one hand, salmon have grown very well in sea cages in late summer and throughout the autumn, so it made that some companies have had to start slaughtering earlier and lighten the farming areas for the winter. And a viral disease that broke out in Reyðarfjörður in November led to a decision to speed up the emptying of sea cages in a certain farming area.

Currently, salmon production is supported by fish farms in the Westfjords and Eastfjords. The company Arnarlax is still the largest producer of salmon in Iceland, now with about 23,600 tonnes, but Arctic Fish is following clousely looking for them, with about 200 tonnes less last year. The fish farms in East Iceland are growing rapidly.

Gísli believes that in the next few years, the large increase in salmon production in Iceland recently will slow down.”

He expects some increase this year, although the acceleration of slaughter from aquaculture in the Westfjords and Eastfjords has taken its toll. Despite this, he believes that the salmon will break the 50 thousand ton wall before the end of the year.

Sigurður Pétursson, founder and former managing director of Arctic Fish, says that the increase last year is greater than is known in other countries where Atlantic salmon are farmed, talking about world records.

The situation for Artic Fish

In recent days, the company Artic Fish has reported that  there has been an increase in declines in salmon farming areas in Dýrafjörður. At this time of year, when the sea is cold and winter weather is noticeable, it increases the load on the salmon.

“After an unusually good summer and autumn with high growth and small declines, declines have increased and these weeks could go to about 3% of biomass”, they explain. The fish in question has reached slaughter size, so that slaughter from Dýrafjörður has been accelerated to prevent further declines. About 1,200 tonnes have been slaughtered from there so far this year.

All fish from Arctic Fish is sold under the Iceborn brand. In 2021, Arctic Fish sold about 11,500 tons of salmon. Most of it came from their farms in Patreksfjörður and Tálknafjörður.

New smolt-station in Hallkelshólar formally in operation

Arnarlax, on its part, recently bought Fjallalax’s smolt and farm production at Hallkelshólar in Grímsnes and and shortly thereafter, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) granted the fish farm a 100 ton operating license for salmon and char production at the facility. Operation has already begun with about 500,000 eggs in place at the new facility.

The site manager of Fjallalax in Hallkelshólar is Matthew Chernin, from California in the USA. Matthew moved to Iceland, more specifically to Selfoss, last year. He has previously worked in aquaculture in Washington state in the United States, Sri Lanka and most recently in Norway, where he also completed a master’s degree in aquaculture at NMBU University (Norges miljø- og biovitenskapelige Universiteit). Matthew and his team have been working hard on the preparation for the increase and change in production over the last few weeks and months.

The station at Hallkelshólar was originally built by the the locals Gísli Hendriksson and Rannveig Björg Albertsdóttir, who have also followed the activities at Sólheimar closely (A local eco-village famous for its devotion to community living, sustainability and care for their local residents).

Arnarlax already has operations in two other locations in the south of Iceland (One of which a joint-venture project) in addition to it´s facilities in Tálknafjörður in the West-Fjords.

With the addition of the station in Hallkelshólar, South of Iceland is becoming one of the leading aquaculture areas in the country, where many aquaculture companies have chosen to base their smolt operation. Arnarlax’s operations in the area are also growing rapidly and the company now employs 15 people in the South of Iceland.

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