Cage and service boat in Mjóifjörður in the east fjords of Iceland                                  

                                                                     Photo: Hörður Sævaldsson


Total export of aquaculture products in volume (left axis) and value (right axis, ISK million at current prize)

Source: Statistics Iceland 

For centuries, the Icelanders have known of the possibility of transferring live freshwater fish into fishless streams or lakes. Apart from this, aquaculture began in Iceland just before the year 1900 with the first attempts to fertilize and hatch salmonid ova and to release the emerging fry into rivers. Aquaculture in Iceland involved mainly hatching of salmonids and restocking of rivers until 1950. In 1951 an era of small scale rearing of salmonids to a size ready for consumption began with rainbow trout. During the period 1985-90 a large-scale build up of salmonid farms took place.  Most of these farms became bankrupt, however, and the nineties were characterised by stagnation in production.   In the nineties, Icelandic scientist and farmers worked on developing aquaculture of species such as Atlantic halibut, turbot, abalone and Atlantic cod.  From 2000 onwards, the main increase has occurred in the production of Atlantic salmon, Arctic char and Atlantic cod.


In 2008 there were about 50 registered fish farms in Iceland.  Of those about 30 were producing juveniles, mostly for salmonid releases. Only four were producing juveniles of marine species. There were 12 sea cage farms, most of which are producing cod. There are 30 additional land-based farms, mostly involved in salmonid. Fifteen mussel farms are in operation, mostly experimentally and four research stations. 


The export of aquaculture products reached a maximum in 2006 with more than 5,000 tonnes in volume and about 2 billion ISK in value. Export volume decreased to about 2,000 tonnes in 2008, thereof about 1,800 tonnes of Arctic char products.  The largest markets for aquaculture products from Iceland by volume are the United States. One Icelandic firm has been successful in producing halibut juveniles, most of which are exported to Norway.  Furthermore, one Icelandic firm has been specializing in selective breeding of salmon and exporting eggs, mainly to Chile.    

Valdimar Ingi Gunnarsson