Research agreement signed

News Release, 12th August 2019

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, to fund a major in-depth research programme with The Marine and Freshwater Institute (Hafrannsóknastofnun) as part of his ongoing commitment to Icelandic salmon conservation.

  • The agreement signed today with the MFRI is part of a long-term sustainable conservation programme in Iceland to help its salmon fly fishing remain the best and most sustainable in the world.
  • This new research programme will inform conservation of North Atlantic Salmon rivers in North East Iceland as action to protect the neighbouring land, and sensitive ecosystems across the region are implemented.
  • Gisli Ásgeirsson CEO Strengur Angling club said, “We are extending conservation projects across the North East region of Iceland to help us to protect its unique environment. Working with Sir Jim Ratcliffe and local communities, we can protect the land and the rivers in a sustainable way to help the North Atlantic salmon thrive in this region.”
  • Peter S. Williams, INEOS Group Technology Director said, “We are creating a safe haven for the North Atlantic salmon in North East Iceland. Only by investing in a sustainable way in the land and rivers across the unique environment will we be able to help the North Atlantic salmon in North East Iceland to thrive.”

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Sir Jim Ratcliffe is to fund a major new research programme with the MFRI (Hafrannsóknastofnun) as part of his ongoing commitment to Atlantic Salmon conservation in North East Iceland.

The research programme with MFRI will be completed in partnership with the Life Sciences department of Imperial College London.

The study which is fully funded by Sir Jim is investigating new areas of salmon ecology and behaviour. PHD students from each institute will carry out in-depth studies of the size of the current salmon population, mapping DNA and through high tech tagging aim to establish links between the ecology and behaviour of salmon in the rivers and their return rate from the sea.

The findings of this detailed study will be published as scientific papers and will help inform conservation work in and around North Atlantic Salmon rivers. The results will be be shared with the Icelandic Government and local communities when completed.

Peter S. Williams, INEOS Group Technology Director, says, “All the data suggest that the North Atlantic Salmon population has fallen down to one quarter of its level in the 1970’s. Most species with this level of decline would be categorised as endangered. So, we are excited to start what we believe is a tremendously important research program, because it will bring together the MFRI and Imperial College to help us understand how to sustain and grow salmon populations here in Iceland and make the North East of Iceland a safe haven for the North Atlantic Salmon.”

A key area of the study will be to evaluate availability of food sources for juvenile salmon as this has implications for their survival at sea and for the numbers of adults that eventually return to the rivers to spawn.

Work to replant trees and native vegetation with the Vopnafjörður Municipal Botanist and local labour, has already started. This important work will help rejuvenate soil eroded areas and introduce more bio-activity into the ecosystem. This has the potential to increase food resources for young salmon in the rivers in the longer term. The approach, of working to conserve and restore these ecosystems relies on farmers remaining on the land, to maintain their traditional agriculture and enhance the quality of habitats alongside these rivers.

In conjunction with the new research and replanting, annual egg-planting schemes will be launched this autumn across the rivers with the help and expert guidance of Hafrannsóknastofnun. Around one million eggs from native fish each year will be seeded in the higher reaches of the river that the salmon have been unable to reach in the past, opening up new habitat and food resources to improve growth and survival rates in the critical early stages of the life cycle.

Extending the spawning areas and nursery grounds through the construction of new salmon ladders, in the Vopnafjörður, Hafralónsá, Hofsá and Miðfjarðará rivers is also progressing as an important part of long-term plans to help Iceland’s salmon thrive. These are moving forward with the help of investment from Sir Jim and Strengur. The Miðfjarðará ladder was completed and opened last year and the salmon have already colonised the newly extended upper parts of the river, which adds 4.5 kms of new habitat for the young fish.

Gisli Ásgeirsson, CEO of Strengur, says, “Sir Jim’s investment in conservation is so important to help maintain the spawning grounds of North Atlantic Salmon in North East Iceland. Working closely with the farmers and the local communities, we can build something sustainable and environmentally sound, that is a benefit to the local ecology and community, as well as maintaining this area as a world class fishing destination.”

In addition to direct contribution from Sir Jim Ratcliffe, all profits from Strengur are now being re-invested back into salmon conservation in North East Iceland. These conservation projects will continue to protect these pristine rivers, extending the spawning grounds, working with the farmers and communities to protect the local habitat.