In August 2023, aquaculture company Arctic Sea Farm reported two holes in their sea-based open-pen fish farm in Patreksfjörður. Despite quick mending of the nets, only a few days passed until RÚV reported the escape of approximately 3,500 factory-raised salmon.
Sea-based fish farming aims to accelerate the development of the fish in such a way that it alters their genetic structure. Additionally, most farms are wrought with parasites and illnesses such as fish lice and the ISA virus.
Due to the lack of legal scrutiny, aquaculture companies in Iceland benefit from the lax environmental regulations surrounding the sector. Salmon from these farms regularly escape their pens, swimming into rivers and threatening the indigenous fish population.
In October, Björk penned a social media post in support of the anti-fish farming cause, announcing the release of “Oral” in collaboration with artist Rosalía.
The Grapevine spoke with Björk about the issue and the release.
How did you and Rosalia come together to write a support song for the anti-fish farming cause?
Well, I had been following this open net pen farming mess for years and then this summer it reached even a higher peak in absurdity!
I then decided i wanted to do something. I contacted some of my activist friends who had already started a campaign to fight whaling. So I decided to help them and prepare for a couple of months and then around now we would all go for the second battle: Open-net pen farming!
How did the collaboration with Rosalía go?
Really well. I’ve known Rosalía for a few years and when I texted her this summer, she straight away said yes. I am so honoured she is up for it!
Tell me a bit about the song and the writing/production process.
Well, I wrote this song 20 years ago – even did the beat myself in a kind of dancehall style … It was then kinda too poppy for Vespertine so I decided to put it on salt.
Then I lost the song and asked my manager who keeps all my original tapes if he could find it. The thing is I couldn’t remember the original title, so for like two decades they were going through the archives looking for something they didn’t know the title for.
It was kinda hilarious then that this spring when I finally found it, it was in a dancehall rhythm which is kinda the mother of reggaeton, I guess? …. And Rosalía’s last album is all in that kinda universe. So I thought, ‘Wow, this is far-fetched but would actually work musically.’ I also thought it was kinda cute that we are the same kinda age when we sing the song, and as a voice nerd it is interesting to hear them merge like that.
From where did you draw inspiration for it?
Love, I guess…
You‘ve stated that all of the song‘s proceedings go towards the fight against fish farming. Could you go into more detail?
I have fought for environmental cases for a long time now and learned the hard way it is important to harness the energy of activism into reality and guide its flow to legal laws or places where it actually changes things for good. Not just, ‘preach for the choir,’ or go all sassy mad on social media. That is too easy. It needs to change our systems!
Are there any particular groups you‘ll support financially?
We are working with ten different environmental groups in Iceland for this: Ungir Umhverfissinnar, VÁ félag um vernd fjarðar, Landssamband Veiðifélaga, Verndarsjóður villtra laxastofna, Íslenski náttúruverndarsjóðurinn, Landvernd, Náttúruverndarsamtök Íslands, The Icelandic Wildlife Fund, NASF and Laxinn lifi. This is such an important case, we are all uniting in the hope we can change this for good.
[Editor’s note: All proceeds go towards the NGO Aegis, which receives support from the aforementioned environmental societies.]
Are you hopeful about legislative changes to the fish farming industry?
Yes, I have talked to the best experts we have and we can do it. And we can still also reverse this problem. The Icelandic wild salmon can be saved. That’s why this is such an important battle to fight and win and give hope to the next generations
How can people outside of Iceland support the cause?
Any final words of encouragement for people against fish farming?
We can do it!
Björk wants you to donate to the cause here.
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