Jim Ratcliffe, the richest man of Great Britain, plans to increase the salmon population in rivers in North-East Iceland. The local authorities support the venture, as they report a shocking decline: the salmon population is estimated to be only a quarter of what it was in the seventies.
Icelanders are concerned
Ratcliffe’s extensive purchase of land in Northern Iceland, over the previous years, has raised concerns among Icelanders. Just recently, he added land in Þistilfjörður to his portfolio and acquired the Strengur Angling Club, that manages rivers in Vopnafjörður. He now is one of the biggest landowners on the Island but the ostensible reason for the investment –protection of the salmon- has diffused some of these reservations.
Thus far, he invested in vegetation recovery that improves the river’s ecosystems by stopping soil erosion and studies funded by him are currently investigating the behaviour of salmon. Moreover, Gísli Ásgeirsson, Managing Director of Strengur Angling Club reported that they are moving towards more sustainable fishing with a limited load in Vopnafjörður under Ratcliffe.
Over the next five years, Ratcliffe plans to expand the salmon spawning area by building new salmon ladders in Hafralónsá, Hofsá and Miðfjarðará in Vopnafjörður. Furthermore, he wants fertilised roe to be released in these rivers.
Understandably, some Icelanders feel uneasy about this vast investment through a foreigner. After all, it’s hard to tell if he’s just a man obsessed with salmon or if his true intentions will be disclosed over time. One thing is for sure though: Iceland’s salmon problem is not resolved by tending to the rivers in the north-east. Salmon farming in open waters in Icelandic Fjords is far from being sustainable and deserves similar attention.
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