For German supermarkets: Why an avalanche village is breeding the fish of the future

Flateyri (Iceland) – 270 souls, snow, a corner shop. High in the north of the land of the northern lights, hot springs, volcanoes and fishermen lies Flateyri. An Icelandic place where only a few German tourists get lost.

But the idyll of the Westfjords is shaken by masses of snow, again and again. In 1995 an avalanche killed 20 people. A trauma that still has an impact today.

Individual fishermen had not insured their boats and lost their livelihoods after the disasterPhoto: private

“Last year an avalanche destroyed our harbor and the fishing boats. Only a newly built wall protects our village, ”says Bernhardur Gudmundsson (37). Flateyri last hit three avalanches.

Three avalanches hit Flateyri in 2020

The avalanche washed the boats out to seaPhoto: private

He to BILD: “A girl was under the avalanche. It took an hour to save her. That felt infinitely long! I’ve never been so relieved in my life. “

Bernhardur started out as a fisherman’s boy at the age of 16. He can cope with rough weather at sea. But even the hard-boiled Icelander is worried about the future: “In recent years the summers have become hotter and the storms have become more violent in winter. My two children should have it as good as me in 30 years. “

A girl had to be rescued from the snow masses

Accidents have welded the village community togetherPhoto: private

The fish is disappearing from the waters around Iceland

In the past 20 years the Atlantic has become one degree warmer. Warmer currents force some species further out into the open sea, inaccessible to Iceland’s fishermen. The capelan has disappeared from the waters around Iceland for two years. The financial basis of many? Gone overnight!

Bycatch is also a major problem and weakens biodiversity: Many animals end up in the nets that are actually not supposed to be caught. And die.

Organic salmon for Rewe & Co.

Weather, climate and disasters – a wake-up call! “We saw the risk of operating fishing boats here.” Ex-fisherman Bernhardur has been working for Arctic Fish since 2014 – and breeds sustainable salmon for German supermarkets.

The adult salmon are sucked off with a boat

The adult salmon are sucked off with a boatPhoto: Simon Sticker

There are three large fish farms in the fjord in front of the town of Þingeyri. Five in the entire Westfjords. “When we started there were four of us,” recalls “Benni”. There are now 70 employees. “I knew this would be the future, but I didn’t think we’d grow so quickly.”

The breeders only produce fish that ends up on the plate. All five breeding sites are operated completely climate-neutral with green electricity and without the use of antibiotics.

“There are many falsehoods being spread about fish farming. Fish farming today and 20 years ago are two different things! We have gained better equipment, more experience and more knowledge over the years. In a world that will soon be home to over 10 billion people, that will be the future, ”says Gudmundsson.

In ten years, Arcrtic Fish wants to have cleared the fjords and move the fish farms to the open sea - the blue fields of Iceland

In ten years Arctic Fish wants to have cleared the fjords and move the fish farms to the open seaPhoto: Simon Sticker

Each of the fish cultures has a diameter of 25 meters, is 30 meters deep and has space for 60,000 fish. The company is licensed to produce 10,000 tons of salmon per year.

Sophisticated: The salmon are fed from land. All fish farms can be supplied with food from the headquarters at the push of a button. A few months ago each crop was still fed by hand.

There is space for fish to hop

And: The fish should also get algae from Icelandic breeding as food in order to keep imports as small as possible. Cameras are used to check whether the feed reaches all of the salmon. In every culture a hawk-eye is appropriate, which also observes the welfare of the salmon underwater. The cameras monitor the salmon’s appetite. The feed is individually portioned.

Gudmundsson’s wife Maria also wants to breed healthy fish. Born in Argentina, she takes care of agricultural crops and health: “Our breeding facilities are not overcrowded. The fish are not allowed to swim close together. They should still be fish and should be able to run up and jump out of the water. “

The project of the Axel Springer journalist students

17 Axel Springer journalism students met those affected by environmental disasters. “HEROPEANS” tells the stories of Europeans who do not give themselves up to their fate, but act – and protect their homeland.

All videos of the project:

More information on journalist training at Axel Springer is available here.


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