A total of 19 sharks were being taken off of three ships and loaded onto an open trailer, and they were enormous – about three metres long – which we later learned was their average size. The sharks had already been gutted, but not beheaded as they normally are. Arnar Þór, the truck driver who was taking the sharks to Bjarnahöfn in Snæfellsness, told us that 19 sharks is an unusually large catch.
“Normally there will be one or two, but I’ve never seen this many,” he said. “To eat it like this is disgusting, though. You have to let it rot a little first.” And by “a little,” he means until next winter.
We watched as Arnar Þór strapped the sharks down, part of which involved actually walking on top of them. Unfortunately for him, he was wearing only socks and sandals. A misstep landed his foot inside one of the sharks, which resulted in a little swearing but no injury. He also tried tucking some unknown tissue back into one shark’s body cavity, but with no success. Hauling shark is obviously harder than it looks.
Nobody fishes for Greenland sharks on purpose. Kristján Salmannson, captain of the trawler Harðbakur, was fishing redfish southwest of Iceland when he ended up hauling in five Greenland sharks three days ago. Rather than take up valuable below-deck storage, the sharks were laid out on deck.
Stunned, we asked him to explain the experience of having five 16-foot sharks spread out across the deck.
Salmannson shrugged it off. Of course you have sharks on deck. “You should see it when we cut them open,” he told us. “The liver is about two metres long.”
We were hoping to see a carnival-style shark weighing, but it was not to be. As big as the sharks were, Salmannson doesn’t get paid for the amount of shark meat he’s brought ashore – he gets paid per shark. These staples of the winter season aren’t treated very well. Salmannson pointed out that the sharks at the bottom of the trailer pile were older: “See how their meat is more yellow? That means they’ve been sitting out longer.”
About this time, the pungent smell of shark meat was beginning to make us lightheaded. Bart repeatedly pointed out that all the seagulls were on the other end of the pier, whereas usually when fish are unloaded, seagulls try to get a bite or two.
A crew member jokingly suggested driving the open trailer of sharks down Laugavegur, and crew, truck driver and captain alike laughed. Then Bart suggested the sharks be strung up to decorate a stage for the forthcoming Iron Maiden concert. Apparently, that was going too far: the captain didn’t find this funny, and simply waved us goodbye as he walked away.