Fish farming in Stöðvarfjörður is controversial

12.05.2022 - 11:12
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There are many different issues on voters’ minds leading up to the 14th May local elections, and the issues vary by municipality. RÚV English will investigate a few different issues, in a few different municipalities.

Today, we look at Fjarðabyggð, East Iceland, where the lists standing for election do not agree on how to react to the municipality’s growing aquaculture industry, or whether enough public consultation has taken place on the matter. Fish farming in Stövarfjörður is expected to begin soon. 

Over 5,000 people 

The population of Fjarðabyggð stood at over 5,200 people at the start of this year, spread over seven towns and villages: Neskaupstaður, Eskifjörður, Reyðarfjörður, Mjóafjörður, Fáskrúðsfjörður, Stöðvarfjörður, and Breiðdalsvík.  For the past four years, the ruling majority has been made up of Framsóknarflokkurinn (the Progressive Party) and Fjarðalistinn (the Fjords List). Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn (the Independence Party) has been in opposition. Miðflokkurinn (the Centre Party) is not standing at this election, but Vinstri grænir (the Left Greens) are standing.  

Export earnings from aluminium and fish

Fjarðabyggð is a significant exporter and a lot of foreign currency earnings are generated in the area thanks to the Fjarðaál aluminium smelter in Reyðarfjörður and major fisheries companies Síldarvinnslan in Neskaupstaður, Eskja in Eskifjörður, and Loðnuvinnslan in Fáskrúðsfjörður. 

No agreement on fish farming 

Aquaculture is a growth industry, though controversial, and the four candidate lists disagree on what to do about it. A new fish farm is planned for Stöðvarfjörður and many local residents will have a clear view of the sea cages from their kitchen windows—much to the displeasure of some.

Don’t damage nature

Stefán Þór Eysteinsson (Fjarðalistinn) says the most important thing is for aquaculture projects to be carried out in cooperation with local residents. This has perhaps not been adequately assured in the current planned fish farm for Stöðvarfjörður, he admits. It is also no less important to make sure nature is not damaged, and that sustainability is always a top priority. 

Left Greens do not support fish farm 

Anna Margrét Arnarsdóttir (Vinstri grænir) says it is clear that Stöðvarfjörður residents are generally against the proposed fish farm and says that her party is also opposed to it in the proposed location. 

Solidarity on economic development 

Ragnar Sigurðsson (Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn) says his party supports the ruling majority in their support for the Stöðvarfjörður fish farm.  

The municipality is no mere stakeholder on aquaculture; it has formed a policy framework on it. And on this basis, investors are coming to Fjarðabyggð, and these companies want to find ways of compromise and agreement on the topic of aquaculture. 

No planning power over the fjord 

Jón Björn Hákonarson (Framsóknarflokkurinn), who is the current mayor, says the Fjarðabyggð council has, since its inception, been in support of aquaculture development in the municipality. The council has pushed hard to get the same planning oversight powers in the fjords as it has on land, but he says this has still not been secured. 

The majority has called on aquaculture companies to work in collaboration and in close contact with local residents, but Jón Björn says this cooperation does not appear to have happened well enough in Stöðvarfjörður. 

For more information on the local elections this May, see the Multicultural Information Centre’s dedicated election page, here. Information from the government is here. And you can find out whether, and where, you can vote by entering your kennitala here. RÚV English will compile all Election 2022 news on this page

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Alexander Elliott
Fréttastofa RÚV