ONE of Iceland’s main cities has caused a stir and political division in the region by telling the government that it does not want fish farming on the 47 mile long fjord which leads into its port.
Akureyri City Council has conveyed its surprise message to Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries following a major debate. But the move has caused anger in some parts of the fjord who say the city council has not consulted neighbouring communities who may want fish farming development. They believe the city is throwing its weight around.
Located in the north of the island, Akureyri (population 19,000) is Iceland’s fourth largest city and despite its remote location remains ice free during the winter, thanks to the Gulf Stream. This makes it a popular calling point for Arctic cruise ships which reach it along a picturesque 70 kilometre approach called Eyjafjörður.
The call was made by Gunnar Gíslason, leader of the of the local Independence Party and approved by the city council’s ruling coalition. The final decision, however, is up to the government in Reykjavik which is keen to develop Iceland’s rapidly growing salmon farming sector.
He expressed fears about the impact of development on wild salmon fishing and the natural habitat in the region, adding “the risks associated with aquaculture are simply too great”. He agreed that fish farming had brought welcome considerable economic benefits for communities in the Westfjords and eastern regions of Iceland, but it was not for Akureyri or the small harbours along Eyjafjörður.
However, not all of these harbours are in agreement and want to see further investigations into the benefits and impact of aquaculture. Members on Fjallabyggd Municipal Council at the northern end of the fjord (pop 2,000) , for example, have expressed anger at Akureyri council’s apparent ‘big brother’ call for a total ban and thinks there could be possibilities for aquaculture development if approached carefully. It is calling for the issue to be debated by all the coastal communities before any final decision. It is also writing to the Fisheries Ministry calling for a full risk assessment to be carried out before a final decision.