In Iceland, recent observations at fish ladders designed to facilitate the migration of wild salmon from the sea have raised concerns about the presence of unexpected “intruders.”

Reports on social media suggest that suspected escapees have been discovered in a minimum of 32 rivers throughout north-west Iceland. One of these posts included images of fish infested with sea lice, a parasite known to pose a deadly threat to wild fish. The Marine and Freshwater Research Institute (MFRI) of Iceland has since verified the presence of farmed fish in multiple river systems.

The recent escape incident occurred at a pen located in Patreksfjörður and is owned by Arctic Fish, a prominent salmon farming company in Iceland. Arctic Fish is a subsidiary of the Norwegian salmon industry leader, Mowi. This escape incident has revived demands from environmentalists, sport fishers, and certain politicians for stricter regulations or even a potential ban on open-pen fish farming. This is not the first such incident, as in the previous year, another salmon farming company, Arnarlax, faced a £705,000 fine for failing to report the escape of 81,000 fish in 2021.

Gummi and his 73-year-old father, Jakob, have successfully apprehended 44 farmed salmon in the last two weeks by shutting off the ladder to prevent them from swimming upstream. In a garage located near their residence in the coastal village of Blönduós, just a short drive from the river, they can identify distinguishing features that differentiate the farmed fish from their wild counterparts. These include worn gill covers, shortened and malformed snouts, and the absence or damage of fins. Gummi has already forwarded 11 of these fish to the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute (MFRI) for detailed analysis.

The primary concern lies in the potential impact of an ongoing influx of farm-raised salmon into the critical headwaters of wild salmon habitats, which could result in a decline in wild salmon populations. Stay tuned for further updates as this story evolves, shedding light on efforts to manage and control the presence of farm-raised salmon in Iceland.

To check out the full story be sure to check out this post from Karen McVeigh at The Guardian.

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