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Icelandic Fishing Industry Magazine

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w w w. ifim . i s




» Let´s fish responsibly Icelanders have a very good fisheries management system and an efficient registrastion and monitoring system for the unloading of product.


» A Danish-Icelandic idea A salt works was established in Reykjanes, that would use geothermal heat. It operated for about twenty years.

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» A new reality

We are in a peculiar position as the mackerel is within our waters we have the right to fish it.



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» New method prevents rancidity Fish proteins are attached to phospholipids, wich is unfortunate because they are very prone to rancidity.

» Annual total consumption af mackerel The result indicated that about 1.1 million tons af mackerel had entered Icelandic waters each summer in search of food.

The importance of Iceland’s fisheries Fishing, which has been part and parcel of the history of Iceland from the outset, has brought the nation immense prosperity. The story of our fishing industry is a remarkable one and it has evolved along very positive lines. The centuries of experience we have acquired, together with the importance we attach to the rational utilisation of our fish stocks, have made us into one of the world’s leading fishing nations. Despite constant insinuations to the contrary, the fact is that the past few decades have seen great advances in profitability and productivity, which are now among the highest in the world. Iceland has managed to develop a fisheries sector that is regarded as a model by other nations, one in which vessel operators, seamen, the government and scientists have long worked collectively to develop methods and procedures that have guaranteed stock renewal and the health of this supremely important resource. The sector has been one of the vital pillars in our national development, and will continue to be so if we succeed in securing it stability and a healthy operating environment. We in Iceland have had to fight for the control of our fisheries resources, and the ‘wars’ we waged have put us in a position of strength. Now we are engaged in yet another battle; this time over mackerel, which have been moving into our fisheries jurisdiction in greatly increased numbers. We intend to fight this battle in a professional manner with scientific evidence as our weapon. The Icelandic Government will make every effort to work for an acceptable solution to this dispute, with the interests of the fishing industry and the nation as a whole as its guiding principle. In view of the importance of fishing in Iceland, we must ensure that the sector is accorded the position it deserves in our community and that it continues in future to be among our principal economic occupations and export industries.

Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson Prime Minister

I c e l a n d ic F i s h i n g I n d u s tr y M a g a z i n e Contact information: +00354 445-9000 or

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A 240 year-old dream comes true


new brand of Icelandic sea salt flakes will enter the market in June. The sea salt is produced at Hafnarslód in Reykólar, Breidafjördur in the Westfjörds, by innovative firm Norður & Co. The salt will be sold both in Iceland and abroad. The men behind Norður & Co are Gardar Stefánsson and Sören Rosenkilde, who met during their studies in Aarhus, Denmark. The second half of the name, & Co., stands for co-mmunity involvement, co-creation and co-operation, which represent the company’s vision of working with talented people in creating unique food products for the world. Gardar has a B.Sc. in Economics and an M.A. in Marketing and Innovation Studies with a Focus on Experiences, while Sören studied marketing and is now studying architecture. Gardar’s Master’s thesis was on sea salt production in Iceland through geothermal utilisation, and Sören was so interested in the project that the two of them decided to implement it together. Sören’s background has also been useful, as he designed the 540m2 salt processing building that is now being built in Reykhólar. The veneer wood framed building has timber walls and stands on a cement foundation. It has very large windows, as it is especially designed to allow guests to view how the salt processing takes place. » Environmentally friendly salt for connoisseurs The salt will be called Norðursalt and will be produced from the sea in Breidafjördur. The sea will be pumped into the production facility which stands on a small island near Reykhólar. The salt will be distilled from the ocean on open steel pans. This will be done with excess water from the algae plant located next



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to the facility, and geothermal well water. Iceland is the only place in the world where geothermal is used in this way, as it is extremely rare to find hot water from the ground at sea level in other places in the world. The production process is therefore more environmentally friendly than for instance the process behind Maldon salt, which is the most popular product on the market. This puts Norðursalt in a unique position. Gardar said that most producers use timber or coal for the distillation process. » A Danish-Icelandic idea The sea salt will be marketed in June, and the partners have big plans in the international consumers market. The idea behind the salt production can initially be traced to the 18th century, when the Danish government started an initiative to improve the Icelandic economy. Among ideas were salt works, as they were then called, both in Reykhólar and in Reykjanes, that would use geothermal heat. A salt works was established in Reykjanes with Danish support. It operated for about twenty years. Gardar said he enjoyed making the 240 year-old Danish-Icelandic dream of a salt works in Reykhólar a reality. » Entire production process in Reykhólar Two to four employees will work at the salt production facility. The entire production process will be in Reykhólar, from the salt production itself to the packaging. This is welcome in a community such as Reykhólar. If business is good, a decision will be made regarding expansion. Gardar said that people have started to move into the area because of the company. Sören and Gardar are optimistic regarding Iceland’s possibilities in sustainable food production. Norður & Co plan to start with salt production, then move into the production of other environmentally friendly, high-quality products. Several are already under development, in cooperation with Icelandic chefs and food producers. One of the first products that will follow the salt is fish sauce, or garum, which will be produced from mackerel and salt. n

Boston MA, United States




Maine, United States

St. Anthony NL, Canada

Halifax NS, Canada

Grundarfjordur Iceland

Bildudalur blue line





Isafjordur Iceland

NL, Canada

yellow line

Saudarkrokur Iceland


red line




green line

Westman Islands

brown line





partner route



freight forwarding


possible arctic sailing route

Klaksvik Faroe Islands

optional port / seasonal route major transit hub

Faroe Islands


transit hub

Grimsby port

Vigo Lisbon





Faroe Islands

Bergen Norway





Aalesund Norway


Sortland Norway


Stavanger Norway








The Netherlands


Velsen The Netherlands



Hamburg Germany





Szczecin Poland



Swinoujscie Poland



Murmansk Russia

Klaipeda Lithuania

Riga Latvia

St. Petersburg Russia

new improved sailing schedule Weekly domestic coastal sailings with direct connections to the UK and mainland Europe.

Increased frequency and shorter transit time to and from the USA.

Fresh fish transported weekly from Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

New port in the USA, Portland, Maine.


Increased services for the fish and oil industry with sailings to and from Scotland.

Korngarðar 2 | 104 Reykjavík, Iceland | 525 7000 |

Possible stops in Isafjordur and Akureyri on the way from Norway. New stops in Vágar, the Faroe Islands and Hamburg, Germany.


Cod skin replaces porcine tissue


nnovation firm Kerecis in Ísafjördur has increased its share capital by one million dollars, the equivalent of over one hundred million Icelandic krona, in order to both follow through on a distribution contract with Britain and the Middle East on marketing as well as continue their product development and testing. “We are developing several products based on our MariGen Omega3 technology. The product that is furthest along is called Marigen Wound and is intended for the treatment of chronic wounds. We have a marketing permit in Europe and are working on clinical trials in order to get a market permit in the United States. It’s going very well. We’ve been working on two large trials in recent months. Part of one of the trials was conducted in Ísafjördur. That trial is now over,” said Gudmundur F. Sigurjónsson, Chairman of Kerecis. » Biologic materials becoming more prevalent The company plans to have its marketing license in the United States by the end of the year. According to Gudmundur, that is the largest and most mature market in this field, with about USD 600 million in annual turnover.



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“Wounds used to be treated with gauzes in order to keep them as dry as possible. About 10 – 15 years ago, the use of foams and other materials that can maintain an adequate level of moisture for the cells in the wound started. Recently, the use of biologic materials has become more prevalent; as biologic materials not only maintain the appropriate moisture level on in the wound, but also seek to improve the environment for the cell. Mostly tissue from pigs and humans have been used for this purpose, but Marigen Wound uses cod skin. The biologic materials work in such a way that the cells are removed, leaving a kind of biologic sponge that the cells crawl into, so as to seek shelter. This is a support material, or a matrix. Your skin contains matrices with cells in between. We remove the cells; leaving perforated, biologic material. The material is then sterilised and put into containers. At the hospital, the material is then placed in the wound so that the cells can grow and develop within the wound,” said Gudmundur. Kerecis uses cod skin instead of pig tissue, which has several benefits. The fish contains Omega fatty acids, in which the cells seem to grow better. There are no religious barriers for the fish, as Jews and some Muslims do not use pig products. Fish is free of diseases found in mammals such as hand, foot and mouth disease. No diseases are carried from fish to humans; simplifying quality assurance and decreasing production costs. Published with the permission of Westfjords newspaper Baejarins Bestu. n


We are very honoured to accept the 2013 Icelandic Presidential Export Award, as it underlines how important well-rooted and strong fisheries companies are for Icelandic society. At the heart of HB Grandi’s success and prosperity are the decades of experience and knowledge that our responsible employees possess, and their great respect for nature, both on land and sea.

New methods in processing protein from cod


ydrolysed fish protein, also known as “fish protein hydrolysates” (FPH) may possess a variety of health benefits, such as antioxidant and antihypertensive properties. It is possible to utilise otherwise underutilized by-products of fish processing, i.e. bone mince, to produce FPH. It is however difficult to extract protein from by-products without being attached to phospholipids (membrane-bound fats) that are extremely prone to rancidity. Recently, new and improved methods to isolate and process fish proteins from by-products were developed by the Icelandic scientist Dr. Sigrún Mjöll Halldórsdóttir, that aims to minimise rancidity and create stable high-quality FPH products for use in a variety of health products. » Health benefits Many diseases develop because of a high level of oxidative stress in the body. These diseases include a variety of heart, liver and nervous system diseases and several types of cancer. By consuming antioxidants, we help the body to slow down this process and therefore decrease the probability of the development of these diseases. Antioxidants such as polyphenols can be found in high concentrations in vegetables and fruits. Several peptides have also showed antioxidant properties. Fish protein can be broken down through hydrolysis into such peptides by using enzymes. The resulting products are collectively called “fish protein hydrolysates” (FPH). Consuming FPH with antioxidant properties can therefore benefit health. FPH have also shown antihypertensive properties. High blood pressure is a very common problem in the Western world that can have serious effects and potentially lead to heart attacks. Therefore consuming FPH as a part of a healthy lifestyle may support decreased probability of developing certain lifestyle related diseases, such as heart disease. » New method prevents rancidity Producing FPH without the negative effects of rancidity has proven difficult. Fish proteins are attached to phospholipids, which is unfortunate because they are very prone to rancidity. Rancidity results in foul odours and bad flavours and may have a negative effect on the bioactive properties of the peptides. “The innovative element of my doctoral thesis was using antioxidants from Icelandic brown seaweed during the production of FPH to prevent rancidity. This technique resulted in more stable FPH of higher quality than comparable FPH products that are currently available on the market”, said Dr. Sigrún Mjöll Halldórsdóttir with Matís Research Institute, who recently defended her doctoral thesis on the topic. Icelandic brown seaweed is an underutilised resource of various bioactive compounds here in Iceland, as the coast of Iceland is covered in this type of seaweed. Isolating antioxidants from Icelandic brown seaweed may significantly create value by using them in products used by humans. Dr. Halldórsdóttir mixed antioxidants from the Icelandic brown seaweed with by-products from fish processing and produced high quality bioactive FPH with enzymes. The antioxidants from the seaweed did not only prevent rancidity in the fish proteins but also improved the flavour and added to the bioactive properties of the FPH. The antioxidants isolated from the Icelandic brown seaweed are cat-



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egorised as natural antioxidants as the seaweed is a naturally occurring resource. Dr. Halldórsdóttir said that using natural antioxidants in food processing is more favourably accepted than using artificial antioxidants that currently are being used heavily by the food industry. Artificial antioxidants can have negative health effects, while natural antioxidants are considered a safer option. » Continued development Now that Dr. Halldórsdóttir has developed these methods, the next steps are to continue with the research so that the methods can be used at a commercial scale. Matís will continue the work in cooperation with two companies, IceProtein and MPF Ísland. The objective is to develop the techniques to a commercial scale by making full use of by-products in the production of certain health products containing FPH. “We also intend to research more thoroughly the bioactive properties of the peptides, including through clinical trials. In order to warrant such statements as „this product has antihypertensive effects“, multiple studies need to have been conducted, especially clinical trials that demonstrates such effects. Authorities can then assess whether the number and depth of the research is sufficient to justify such a statement in the product’s labelling.” » Odour and flavour are important Alongside the scientific research, market and product research is also needed. “People know that fish consumption is good for health. The health benefits of fish are largely connected to the fish oil omega-3, or liver oil. We also have to get people to associate the health benefits with the fish proteins. People need to open their eyes to the immense positive health effects of fish proteins.” Developing a product containing fish protein that is attractive to consumers is necessary for success. We will also consider adding proteins and FPH to prepared seafood, such as surimi, fish sauce and fish balls, as well as powder capsules and health drinks. There are several products containing FPH available in the United States market, mainly intended for treating high blood pressure. The products are sold at a very high price. Protein products have also been used to decrease the appetite of those suffering from obesity. “Rancidity has been the Achilles heel in fish protein processing. It effects odours and flavours and decreases the bioactive properties of the proteins. The antioxidants I used resulted in improved flavour, decreased foul odour and increased bioactivity.” Dr. Halldórsdóttir said that preventing bad flavour and odour of the product is highly important for success, as rancidity makes the product unlikely for consumption regardless of any health benefits. » Freeze dryer needed Dr. Halldórsdóttir said that it is important that the resource from which the FPH is processed is fresh. By-products need to be handled in the same way as more valuable products, such as filets, which are immediately placed on ice or refrigerated. Processing the proteins will of course require some level of technology, but the equipment does not need to be very complex. “Here at Matís we always try to design things in such a way that is convenient for the industry. This includes keeping processes

simple and minimising technological requirements, e.g. a simple filter can be used instead of an energy-intensive centrifuge. What is however lacking here in Iceland is an industrial-scale freeze dryer. Freeze drying has little effect on quality as compared to spray drying, which can have negative effects, making freeze drying the best option if dried FPH production is to take place. The cost of buying a freeze dryer of this scale is very high. At present, materials are being sent abroad to be freeze-dried, which is both costly and inefficient.” She says she therefore hopes that parties in the food industry see the benefit in investing in such a dryer in the near future. It would be a large step forward for the Icelandic food industry.

Dr. Sigrún Mjöll Halldórsdóttir.

» The future is bright Bioactive compounds from the Icelandic sea are a valuable resource that is largely underutilised, according to Dr. Halldórsdóttir. By-products from fish processing and Icelandic brown seaweed are examples of underutilised raw materials that contain exciting bioactive compounds that have potential health benefits and can be used in food production to increase product quality. “There are vast opportunities in biotechnology and the food industry in Iceland. With continued research and development of materials from the sea, the future is bright.” n

The green fishing vessel In recent years Icelandic tech companies in the ocean industry have developed various types of equipment and mechanical devices that are environmental friendly and cutting edge. Together, the firms possess a great amount of knowledge than can be better utilized and promoted internationally. These technical solutions which have been developed for use in fishing vessels contribute to higher efficiency of power sources, less oil consumption and higher utilization of raw materials. The idea is a joint initiative in which the firms develop and assemble an environmental friendly, state of the art, fishing vessel which could then be used as a pilot ship for the Icelandic fleet. Many of the solutions for the fishing vessels that have been developed in Iceland have gone by unnoticed internationally because the companies are quite small and lack the critical mass to sufficiently market themselves. When looked upon closely you can see that this is true for rather large

group of companies and hence great opportunites waiting to be seized. The Icelandic fisheries have shown a great interest in these new technology solutions but because of unfavorable taxation environment and a negative media coverage significant investments have been limited. If the business environment will improve in coming months it is obvious that the fishing industry needs to invest again and move ahead into a new era. Collaboration of tech companies, major parties in the ocean industry and the government in a project called “the Green Fishing vessel”, can be a turning point in respect to more powerful marketing, promoting the image of Iceland as a leading nation in the marine industry and creating high-income jobs. Simultaneously, Icelanders need to bring to attention how far they have come in quality control, both in terms of harvesting and processing of the fish. Find out more about the Green fishing vessel at under “Ocean cluster analysis”. n

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Important that the dispute is resolved quickly

Always open to A 10


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lthough the mackerel dispute with the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands is still unresolved and threats of sanctions linger in the air, Sigurdur Ingi Jóhannsson, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, is optimistic when it comes to its resolution. A lot of progress has already been made. Sigurdur Ingi Jóhannsson, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, notes that the start of the mackerel dispute can be traced to 2007 and some progress has since been made. “At the start, Iceland was not recognised as a coastal state and was therefore kept out of negotiations concerning the management of the mackerel stock. Our coastal state status was finally recognised in 2010 by the other coastal states. At that point, we became full participants in an international scientific operation that includes the

measurement of mackerel stocks. We have since then contributed significantly to the process. The reason why we were not recognised as a coastal state was that they would not even recognise that there was mackerel here at all.” Sigurdur Ingi says it clear that the initial assumptions in the EU/Norway dispute were incorrect. The fact is that the migratory patterns and distribution of the mackerel stock have changed. “The mackerel is here now and it is therefore perfectly reasonable that we receive a portion of a stock that enters our waters.” » Current position is difficult The current position of the dispute is however difficult because all parties are not budging. The Icelanders want a reasonable

negotiation portion of the immense amount of mackerel that enters our waters. The reason why the EU and Norway will not meet our claims is of course that the stakes are high, Sigurdur says, especially for the Scottish and Irish. Iceland, the EU and Norway have presented proposals for solutions to the dispute, but involved parties have been unable to reach a consensus. “I hold on to the belief that we are all highly interested in finding a solution. It is, however, not helpful when the EU and Norway maintain that we are unwilling to negotiate, which is entirely untrue. We are continually ready for negotiations and we also conduct our fishing in accordance with ICES proposals. We for instance decreased the total allowed catch to 123,000 tons, in accordance with ICES proposals.”

» Confusing remarks Recently Maria Damanaki, the EU Commissioner for Fisheries, came to Iceland to meet the Minister of Fisheries and they had what he calls a productive meeting. A week later, she stated in European Parliament discussions with representatives from European Union Member States that there was no basis for negotiations with Iceland. Did these remarks surprise Sigurdur Ingi? “Very much. The meeting was both friendly and frank. I informed her of my view that it was not helping the process to constantly hear how difficult and uncompromising we are from EU and Member State representatives. I clearly stated that we were open to negotiations at any time. So this very much surprised me,” he says. 


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» Negotiations would be ended The possibility of trade embargoes by the EU has loomed over us because of the case. “We should however clearly state that in our assessment, there is no legal grounds for such an embargo with respect to both the EEA and WTO agreements, Sigurdur says. He also points out that according to provisions of Icelandic law, it is forbidden for foreign fishing vessels, who fish from a joint stock for which there is no fisheries management agreement in place, to unload product in Iceland. Iceland therefore recognises the EU’s right to place the same limitations on Icelandic fishing vessels. Should the EU decide to go further, it would be a clear violation of the EEA agreement. The EU surely must respect its international contractual obligations. The EU and Norway seem to have toughened their stances in the dispute and the Minister is confused as to why that the same tough stance is not taken toward the Russians who also fish mackerel without an agreement. “The Russians are left alone and no mention is even made of them, despite them having increased their catch allowance this year, in direct opposition to the advice of ICES. There is no consistency between potential EU actions against larger nations and smaller ones, like us and the Faroese.” » Could find a solution The EU and Norway present themselves as a single party in the negotiations while the Icelanders have always emphasised that this is a dispute between four states. Some have suggested involving an independent mediator in the dispute, but Sigurdur 12


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Ingi believes the gap is not so wide that parties cannot resolve the dispute amongst themselves. He believes a mediator is unnecessary. “These nations all consider themselves responsible fishing nations and therefore we should be able to find a solution. Otherwise all parties would simply suffer great blows to their reputations.” He said it far from the truth that Icelanders are unwilling to compromise. We do, however, want our fair share of the fishing and for consideration to be taken for the reasoning behind our expectations. Approximately one million tons of mackerel now enters Icelandic waters every year. It feeds here and increases its weight by 50%. In our waters, the mackerel eats fry, sandeel and calanus. It then re-enters EU and Norwegian waters plump and ready. “Because of this, there are those that believe we are asking for too small a portion of the total catchable stock,” Sigurdur Ingi says. » Let’s fish responsibly Icelanders have been accused of overfishing mackerel and that our fishing is therefore unsustainable. Sigurdur Ingi says that is far from the truth and points out that everyone is jointly responsible for current fishing levels being beyond ICES recommendations. It should be noted that Iceland presented a proposal for all parties to jointly decrease fishing levels to ensure that total fishing stays within the ICES recommendations. Other members of the dispute rejected the proposal. Icelanders have a very good fisheries management system and an efficient registration and monitoring system for the unloading of product. Discarding

Fishing for mackerel

15,000 Greenland

68,000 Russia

123,000 Iceland

158,000 Faroe Islands

154,000 Norway

336,000 EU

Countries have announced their planned catches for this year.

and illegal unloading of fish, including mackerel, does not occur here. These practices have posed enormous problems throughout the years in other places. “Responsible fishing is important to us, so therefore we have taken full consideration for the ICES recommendations,” the minister stated. It is still imperative to get better data regarding the stock sizes, so as to strengthen the basis of the scientific advice. The fishing states are, for that reason, conducting roe counts this summer. Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands are conducting fish counts for the fourth summer in a row; an important supplement to the roe count. It would have been beneficial had the EU participated in that joint project, but that will not happen, Sigurdur Ingi states.

Sigurdur Ingi Jóhannsson, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture.

» Want to fish outside our waters Icelanders plan to fish 123,000 tons of mackerel this summer, which is about 15.5% of the total catch allowance. “The fish is fatter and more valuable when it leaves here for other states’ waters after the summer feeding. It is then reasonable for us to seek out our share in the total catch allowance,“ the Minister stated. The Icelandic authorities have stated their willingness to negotiate at any time, but there are elections coming up in Norway in September and the Norwegian authorities have strongly inferred that they will not sit down at the table until after the elections. „It is to the benefit of all responsible fishing nations for us to reach an agreement as soon as possible so that we can conduct responsible and sustainable mackerel fishing far into the future. We are therefore ready for negotiations, here and now,” Sigurdur says in closing. n

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Research on mackerel’s effects on the marine ecosystem surrounding Iceland

Mackerel in Icelandic waters


By Gudmundur J. Óskarsson Marine Research Institute

he is the most recent exploitable stock in Iceland and also one of the most valuable, due to its colonisation of Icelandic waters in recent years and its abundance there. The so-called mackerel dispute has been a topic of great discussion because of this change in migratory patterns. The dispute surrounds how to divide the stock between the countries that are exploiting it. This mackerel colonisation has also affected the marine ecosystem surrounding Iceland which needs consideration. Since mackerel was first observed in any significant numbers within Icelandic waters in 2006, its abundance has increased annually according to both the results of the Marine Research Institute’s research surveys as well as catches by the fishing fleet. The warming of the ocean around Iceland during the past two decades is believed to have made the mackerel capable to feed here, but other factors may also have an effect, such as an increased stock size requiring a larger feeding ground or a decrease in the amount of feed in its traditional feeding area further east. An active predator, the mackerel comes into Icelandic waters to eat and build up the energy reservoirs. Considering this, and the amount of mackerel that comes here, it can be safely assumed that its effects on the marine ecosystem surrounding Iceland are considerable. The Marine Research Institute has been conducting research aimed at assessing these effects. This article outlines the preliminary conclusions of the research; an assessment of the mackerel’s total food consumption around Iceland and its diet composition in comparison to herring, which is probably the mackerel’s primary competitor for food.

» Annual total consumption of mackerel In determining how much feed mackerel eat every year in Icelandic waters, information was used on how much weight the mackerel gains over the summer, feeding conversion efficiency, which indicate the amount of sustenance required to gain such weight, and the total amount of mackerel in the area. The annual weight gain was determined from samples taken from the catches of fishing vessels and research expeditions showing the difference between average weight by age at the start and end of the summer. The weight increase over the summer varied by age, but was an average of 42% and 43%, 2010 and 2011 respectively. Information on the amount of mackerel in Icelandic waters was gathered from the results of the Marine Research Institute’s mackerel survey in July-August of 2010 and 2011 that were part of a collaborative project between the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Norway. The results indicated that about 1.1 million tons of mackerel had entered Icelandic waters each summer in search of food. 




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The weight increase over the summer varied by age, but was an average of 42% and 43%, 2010 and 2011 respectively.

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When considering the measurements about, the size distribution range of the mackerel and the assumption based on foreign research that about 15% of the mackerel’s feed goes toward weight gain, the conclusion is that the mackerel has eaten about 2.2 million tons of food in Icelandic waters during each summer. But what was the mackerel feeding on and is it competing with herring for food? » The mackerel’s stomach content The diet composition of mackerel and the two herring stocks, Norwegian spring spawners and Icelandic summer spawners, near Iceland during the summers of 2010 and 2011 was examined in five distinct areas through the analysis of stomach samples collected near the surface in the Marine Research Institute’s mackerel survey (Image 1). The contents of the stomach samples were analysed at the BIOICE Research Centre in Sandgerdi, Iceland. The average weight of the mackerel’s food was much greater than that of herring, and the average weight of the mackerel’s food was generally highest in the southeast and southwest areas, while the average weight of the herring’s food was highest in the west, north and east areas. This also somewhat reflects the distribution of the stocks. This can be interpreted such that the mackerel is a more productive and active predator than herring, or that the food selection and behaviour of the mackerel is somehow different from herring, despite the two species being caught in the

same trawls. These results are in accordance with comparable research from other marine areas where these two species are found, for example in Norwegian Sea. The mackerel’s diet was mostly comprised of copepods in most areas during the summers of 2010 and 2011, or from 1080% of the weight of the food (Image 2). Calanus finmarchicus was by far the most prevalent type of copepods in nearly all of the samples. Copepods, or more precisely Calanus finmarchicus, which previous research has indicated as the primary food item of the herring, were often measured in relatively low amounts these two summers in herring stomachs. Krill and amphipods had replaced the copepods as the most prevalent species in the herring’s food, although it should be noted that a considerably higher portion of the herring’s food was made up of indistinguishable plankton crab types that all three of these types belong to. Fish was found in higher shares in the mackerel stomachs; highest in the north area, where capelin was the most prevalent. In other areas, the fish food of mackerel and herring was mostly comprised of Mueller’s pearlside, 0-group blue whiting and sandeel. As was to be expected, the results show a strong overlap between the diet composition of mackerel and herring. But they also indicated that the herring’s food selection has changed somewhat, which is likely to be connected to changes to feeding 16


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behaviour such that it might seeks food deeper into the water column. These changes are believed to the herring stocks’ response to competition for food against the more productive and active predator, mackerel. But has this recent competition with mackerel measurable effects on the body condition and growth within the herring stocks? » Effects on the ecosystem A data exploration was conducted to determine whether this new competition for food against the mackerel had long-term effects on the body condition of the two herring stocks feeding in the same area. The Icelandic summer-spawning herring has been in relatively good condition and there have been no deviations in the growth of the fish, which does not indicate changes resulting from food competition. The weight at age of the Norwegian spring-spawning herring has been somewhat below average in recent years and length at age has decreased. These changes have been linked to observations of decreasing food availability in the herring’s feeding grounds between Norway and Iceland during the last ten years. Whether the reason for less food is related to lower primary production or more total biomass of pelagic fish feeding there (especially herring, mackerel and blue whiting) remains unknown, but research is underway. Finally, it should be noted that the weight of mackerel within Icelandic waters has deteriorated and was significantly worse in 2010 and 2011 than it was in years prior. That indicates that feeding conditions were worse those summers, but could also be partially explained by the more westerly distribution of mackerel during those years. Only a few of possible factors in the ecosystem near Iceland that could be affected by the increasing colonisation by mackerel have been examined here. There are a number of factors remaining that have yet to be examined. For example, the status of sandeel stocks near Iceland has been poor in recent years with low levels of recruitment since 2005. Although that situation had started to develop prior to the mackerel’s arrival, the mackerel could possibly play a role in sustaining that situation through direct predation and/or food competition. The diet studies of mackerel conducted at the Marine Research Institute have so far mostly focussed on the offshore areas where most of the mackerel stays, and not as much in fjords and inshore waters where mackerel can also be found. The offspring of various exploitable stocks can be found in inshore waters, such as cod, halibut, saithe and herring, where they may become the prey of herring. The results of the samples that were collected in the inner part of the bay Faxaflói during the summer of 2012 actually indicated similar diet composition as the mackerel in offshore waters, that is to say that it mostly feeds on copepods. More research is needed regarding these questions and much research is planned during the summer of 2013. The preceding text only mentions the negative effects on the ecosystem that result from the colonisation of mackerel. It should be mentioned however that the mackerel colonisation could also have positive effects on the ecosystem. In other marine areas mackerel is prey, and its most active predators are whales, large sea birds, saithe, cod and tuna. These species may gain from the mackerel’s colonisation of Icelandic waters. n

A comparison of the proportional weight of feeding groups in the stomachs of mackerel (left) and herring (right; ISSH indicating Icelandic summer-spawners and NSSH Norwegian spring-spawners) during the summer of 2010 (above) and 2011 (below) surrounding Iceland. The number of examined stomachs is indicated above the columns, as is the herring stock.

The locations of the mackerel stomach samples (*), Icelandic summer-spawning herring (O) and the Norwegian spring-spawning herring (Δ) in July-August 2010 (above) and 2011 (below), with area delineation. The red lines demarcate exclusive economic zones.

Fisheries executives on the mackerel dispute Gardar Svavarsson, Department ManagerPelagic at Grandi: “It is of course our wish that this dispute is resolved quickly and in a way satisfactory to Icelanders. The Icelandic arguments in this case are very strong and it is therefore essential that the final outcome take account of that. All of the disputing parties understand the importance of reaching a longterm solution, so we are optimistic that one will be found. The nations that have been involved in the dispute so far have a great level of interests to protect, so it is important that they continue to work together toward a joint solution.”

Gunnthór Ingvason, Managing Director at Síldarvinnslan: “The mackerel enters our waters and we then of course feel we have the right to fish it. We also believe it is very important that the dispute is solved and an agreement reached regarding a reasonable division of the stock so that it can be utilised in a sustainable manner. Clearly the dispute will be solved. We just hope it does not take so long that the stock is damaged in the meantime. We have been in disputes like this in the past with stocks that we saw drop drastically, and it took time for them to recover, the blue whiting, for example. The sooner we find a solution, the better it will be for all parties.”

Páll Gudmundsson, managing director of Huginn ehf: “This is of course a shared stock, so we will need to find a common solution. I am not optimistic that we will see such a solution in the near future. We do however have to find a method of determining how long the stock stays in each area, in what economic zone the mackerel is at what time, and then fish based on that information. While its here, we should have a larger portion than others, and then when it enters other areas, that share should decrease. This is a long-term objective for the Marine Research Institute and the authorities.”

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Cannot rely on fishing experience alone


Audur H. Ingólfsdóttir.

ations are now forced to recognise the change in circumstances brought on by climate change and they need to diminish the significance of fishing history in determining quotas. Negotiating parties will have to show increased flexibility. International agreements are meant to provide a framework so countries can peacefully resolve disputes that may arise. In fishing, there are two types of agreements. Firstly, there are general agreements that outline certain parameters, with the Convention of the Law of the Sea being the most important. Secondly, there are agreements pertaining to particular stocks or geographical areas. Audur H. Ingólfsdóttir, international political scientist and lecturer at the University of Bifröst, says that the Convention of the Law of the Sea can be thought of as a sort of constitution on how we should conduct ourselves at sea. It provides the basis for exclusive economic zones, dividing the sea between states, and outlines certain rights and responsibilities. “It does not, however, solve any problems pertaining to living resources such as fish that do not respect borders and simply swims where it wants, from one exclusive economic zone to another,” she says. The Convention on the Law of the Sea clearly states that each nation has a right to utilise all of the resources found in its exclusive economic zone but has a responsibility to reach agreements regarding the utilisation of joint resources, such as fish stocks that go from one exclusive economic zone to another. “It is not specified further however, what parameters should be used in negotiations and what should be done if negotiations are unsuccessful.” For common stocks that travel between several states, such as the mackerel, multi-party negotiations are held. The most important parameter until now has been the historical basis; fishing experience. “Fishing experience provides the basis for the Icelandic catch allowance system and bases catch allowances in the future on how much was fished in the past. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, ICES, releases recommendations on how much can be fished responsibly for each year, then states have to divide the quotas amongst themselves. Historical rights should ensure the fairness of fishing as societies come to base themselves on fishing, and those that have invested in boats and equipment need that assurance. When stocks move about, however, this equilibrium gets thrown off and a dispute then arises; as occurred with the Norwegian-Icelandic herring and now the mackerel.” » A new reality “What makes the mackerel dispute interesting for international political scientists is its particular position resulting from climate change. The temperature of the sea is changing and stocks are subsequently moving. It has been such a sharp change. A few years ago there was no mackerel here, but now about 30% of the stock is here one-third of the year,” Audur says. We are in a peculiar position; as the mackerel is within our waters we have the right to fish it, but we also have to negotiate with our neighbour states regarding the division of the catch and they have fishing history on their side. “If we base our position on fishing history



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alone we have virtually no rights, but if we base our position on the amount within our waters we have a right to quite a bit!” Tension develops when these varying positions are at odds. “Now it seems that we may be entering a period where these types of situations become more common and the disputes therefore deeper. Audur believes that is likely and that Icelanders must prepare themselves for the possibility that new stocks may come into our waters as well as the possibility that stocks that have historically been in our waters may go elsewhere, for instance to Northern Norway or Greenland. “We’ll see how successful we are in dealing with this new reality, whether we are capable of adjusting to these shifts and finding ways of negotiating utilisation in a way that takes account of changes in the migratory patterns of fish.” It is important to consider matters from both sides and prepare for reactions when stocks leave Iceland for other areas. Icelanders will probably want to protect its historical rights to some degree. “We cannot however expect other states to relinquish their historical rights in the mackerel dispute while refusing to budge on ours in a later dispute.” » Dangerous for the dispute to become drawn out If the disputing parties continue to hold on to its position as has been the case in the mackerel dispute, the disputes will become long and hard. The longer the dispute draws out, the more time parties have to determine their own quotas and fish as much as possible, for reasons that include creating fishing history. This increases the risk of overfishing considerably. “The more years you fish more than is recommended, the more dangerous it is, obviously. We don’t have to look any further than when Icelanders were negotiating on the blue whiting. Once agreements were finally reached, the stocks were depleted,” Audur says. This must be kept in mind. “If this tactic is the wave of the future, that all parties stick to their positions and race to become the last to give in, it will be detrimental to us all.” Such harsh disputes can also cause tension to rise in general in international relations and can have broad effects. » Different circumstances Audur says it is necessary to consider more parameters than fishing history alone when determining catch allowances. We must consider the fact that the stocks are moving about and we can’t rely on fishing history alone. “In the meeting rooms, fishing history may not be the only parameter, but it is the underlying parameter in all discussions, both there and elsewhere, whether it is stated or inferred. If we look at press releases from Scottish fishing associations, they either do not mention at all that climate change is causing fishing stocks to shift locations, or they diminish this fact greatly. They only talk about their rights. Mention is made of the irresponsible fishing of Iceland and the Faroe Islands, while climate change is completely ignored. This discourse needs to be altered. Audur says that Steingrímur Sigfússon, the former Minister of Fisheries, tried to change this and had pointed out that this no longer concerned historical rights alone and that we needed to factor climate change into the equation. “Now the government must decide how they will handle this, whether they will continue on the same stride. One thing is clear, we do have to realise that circumstances are now different.” n

A question of market access The demand for certified and environmentally friendly fish has increased in recent years, although it varies by country as well as customer. If a company wants to provide goods to market, it must be able to offer certification for those goods. Certifications are often required in Britain, while demand for certifications is rising in the United States. They are a necessity in Switzerland. France has yet to go this route, although it considered likely to do so in the future. Svavar Thór Gudmundsson, the managing director of Sæmark, said that the question of certification is a question of access. “Either you have the certification or not,” he said. “If you have a supermarket that requires certification for business, you have no other choice than to offer him certified products. This is for example very important for our largest clients in Britain, which is why we obtained MSC certification a while back.” Once Sæmark received the MSC certification, the company was able to re-enter the Swiss market, for example. When asked if customers are willing to pay a higher price for a certified product, Svavar said no. This is more of a question of market access. “The price isn’t any higher today, but instead we get full access to markets which is of course very important.” The company has also been meeting increased demand for fresh line-caught fish, as the fishing line is considered an environmentally friendly tool. This is particularly true pertaining to Britain, where some companies are now specialising in selling fresh, line-caught fish. The demand for certification has not been high in France, as the market is a high-volume market. “The French want high volume and

high quality, and they know that we and the Norwegians offer both. The French buy mostly from these two countries that are meeting their current needs. This could change, however,“ Svavar said. » Consumer interest has not been demonstrated Gudný Káradóttir, Director at Promote Iceland and Marketing Director for Iceland Responsible Fisheries, said there is no market research indicating that fish consumers consider certification so important that it actually determines whether people eat fish or not. Certification is not as important to consumers as some would have you think, although it does vary somewhat by market area. There are, however, many companies that want to demonstrate social responsibility and therefore stress the purchase of certified, traceable fish that confirms responsible fishing and processing practices. Icelandic companies took the initiative of setting up marketing project Iceland Responsible Fisheries. The project both identifies Icelandic seafood products that are processed from stock in Icelandic waters through a certificate of origin and also works toward getting third party certification on Icelandic fishing. The Iceland Responsible Fisheries certification confirms responsible fisheries management and good stewardship of marine resources. The project also places heavy emphasis on the Icelandic origin of marine products. Cod is the only type of fish that is domestically certified through Iceland Responsible Fisheries, as a long-term plan has not yet been implemented for other types. Three other types are in the certification process: golden redfish, haddock and saithe, and are expected to be certified soon. n

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IFIM 2 edition 2013  

Icelandic Fishing Industry Magazine - 2 edition 2013

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