The dark side of icelandic salmon: a call for change

What is behind salmon farming in Iceland? The devastating effects of this activity laid bare in a documentary, which supports the campaign to ban this form of industrial farming in the country

Thinking about the land of ice and fire, with its wild fjords, one might assume that Icelandic salmon is synonymous with quality. However, the majority of the salmon that ends up on our tables is not wild.

Instead, it comes from industrial farming, a looming disaster for both the environment and the welfare of the animals. Icelanders themselves are attempting to halt this practice to protect their country and its natural landscapes.

This is the focus of a documentary launched by Patagonia Films titled Laxaþjóð | A Salmon Nation. The short film sheds light on Iceland’s open-net salmon farms, revealing what lies behind a slice of Icelandic salmon through testimonials, protests, and chilling imagery.

Off the coast of the icelandic fjords

Off the coast of the Icelandic fjords, in the open sea, one can see overcrowded circular enclosures where salmon are transferred and intensively farmed. They are vaccinated to fend off infections, and their bodies are much larger than wild specimens because they need to grow quickly, putting on weight and fat in a short amount of time.

icelandic salmon


These salmon often bear wounds, lesions of all kinds, and deformities due to lice epidemics, parasites, and diseases. The dreadful farming conditions lead to high stress levels and a mortality rate of 25% in some areas.

This means that between 65 and 70 million salmon die in industrial farms each year.

But the horrors of fish farming are not limited to this aspect. This rapidly growing form of aquaculture in Iceland is polluting the coasts and pushing wild salmon toward extinction.

In the North Atlantic, the wild salmon population has plummeted and is now only a quarter of what it was in 1970, with terrifying consequences for other species as well.

“Salmon is no longer a luxury food for those of us living in developed countries: today, we eat three times as much as we did in 1980. But this rapid increase in consumption comes at a huge cost to nature,” writes Patagonia.

Icelanders are aware of this and are making their voices heard, urging the Icelandic parliament to pass new legislation to further regulate aquaculture, which is under discussion this year.

“We have made all the mistakes of industrial agriculture on land, and now we are making the same disastrous errors with fish farming. As a fly fisherman, I have seen firsthand how Icelandic waters are dying faster than I could have ever imagined. Iceland now has the chance to repent and end open-net farming,”

said Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia.

The documentary supports the campaign and a petition to ban open net salmon farming.


Source: Patagonia

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