Q&A


The Six Rivers Salmon Conservation Project builds on a legacy of conservation and enhancement spanning more than 60 years

About the conservation work and research:

Q: What use is the research that is planned?

A: It will be extremely useful here in Iceland as we understand the life cycle of North Atlantic Salmon for the Icelandic salmon population and the rivers in the North East of Iceland, and for the North-Atlantic Salmon as a whole.

Q: What kind of research is planned and for how long?

A: The research is expected to continue until 2022 or 2023. Its setup is governed by the universities in question, but the aim is to 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. By mapping the behaviour of the salmon within the waters and their return rate we are trying to locate bottlenecks in the cycle and at the same time what can be done to eliminate those bottlenecks.

Q: If there is a genetic difference between the salmon species in each river what use is there in preserving and researching specific rivers in the North East of Iceland?

A: All the same, they are all salmon and the behaviour of the fish is comparable. Our hope is that the findings will benefit the North-Atlantic Salmon in general.

Q: How much larger can the stocks in the rivers in the North East be expected to get when the new ladders are in place and the egg planting in new areas finished?

A: That is hard to predict. When new spawning grounds have been opened and the run of the salmon lengthened, even by tens of kilometres, in specific areas, that is going to be reflected in the stock size.

Q: How much does the research cost?

A: The research cost is estimated 80 million ISK until 2022/2023.

Q: What is included in those expenses?

A: The cost lies mainly in instruments and the salaries of the two doctorate students, one coming from the Imperial College in London and the other from the MFRI and the University of Iceland.

Q: How much money is Jim Ratcliffe putting into the research and preservation work?

A: Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s investment in research, development and conservation of the wild salmon is expected to be in the hundreds of million ISK.

Q: How much do other parts of the preservation work cost, ladders, egg planting, etc.?

A: Over 500 million ISK in the same period, as estimated.

Q: How long is the salmon going to be researched and to what end?

A: The plan is for the doctorate research by the two Ph.D. students from Imperial College and the MFRI and the University of Iceland is expected to continue until 2022/2023. The goal is to increased knowledge about the salmon’s wellbeing throughout its whole life cycle and thereby gain deeper understanding on how best to strengthen and preserve the stock.

Q: What will be done with the results?

A: The universities will publish the findings of the studies as scientific papers. The results will also be shared with the Icelandic Government and local communities when completed.

Q: How is the salmon going to be monitored, both in the rivers and in the sea?

A: We use high-tech tagging and counting in gates to monitor the salmon in the rivers.

Q: Are the rivers being preserved to become more a fruitful source of fish for rich anglers visiting Iceland or is there a real benefit for the North Atlantic salmon population?

A: Increased fishing is fundamental to making the conservation project sustainable since all income from the rivers is diverted back into the development and conservation work. If successful then the fishing will increase and thereby activity related to angling in the area, for the good of the whole community. Ultimately the goal is always to preserve the salmon and worth mentioning that according to the river’s fishing rules all caught fish is released again.

Q: When can we expect results from the research planned in the NE of Iceland?

A: In the years 2022 or 2023.

Q: Will there be permanent or long-term positions with people situated in the North East related to the research?

A: Yes, in Vopnafjörður we have a residence for the doctorate students for longer or shorter time. The progress of the research will decide for how long they stay each time.

Q: Has the community in the NE something to gain from the conservation work?

A: The investment in the area is considerable, resulting in increased activity in the municipalities in the time period, both new jobs because of the site-development work and services to the people involved. In addition, there is long-term gain to be had from the replanting of trees and native vegetation and in strengthening the rivers, resulting in more anglers and other guests, such as tourist visiting the area, which in turn means more local activity and service to that group. It would not be surprising if the project would result in an increase in the local population, though long-term effects are of course hard to predict.

Q: Does Sir Jim Ratcliffe support reforestation projects in Vopnafjörður, and if so, are there contracts in place stipulating the progress and estimated costs?

A: Replanting work is carried out in full cooperation with the Vopnafjörður Municipal Botanist and municipal staff. In 2019 300.000 ISK went to the replanting programme.

About Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s investments in Iceland:

Q: How many farms does Sir Jim Ratcliffe own in Iceland?

A: There have been several stories in the press about this issue, based on the public records available. We have not commented on the matter. The fact is that any purchase of property has been to ensure infrastructure investment and conservation work related to the North Atlantic Salmon in the rivers in the North East of Iceland.

Q: Why don’t you just disclose the matter?

A: The issue of farm ownership is in some instances complex, both because of confidentiality agreements in some cases and because of mixed ownership in other cases. Therefore, we have chosen not to comment on the scope of the real estate investments, letting suffice the registration present in public records.

Q: Is Sir Jim Ratcliffe trying to hide how many farms he has bought, i.e. by complex registration of ownership in different companies?

A: No, far from it. The purchases have occurred over a long period of time and circumstances at each time have been a deciding factor about how each purchase is organised. We are currently reviewing these matters, aiming to simplify registration and increase transparency.

Q: What ensures that Sir Jim Ratcliffe does not change course and starts altogether different operations on his farms?

A: Probably his word as a gentleman. And, of course, the legal framework in Iceland and the municipalities’ planning authority that set the frame for all landowners, regardless of their origin. However, he has described his intentions and begun investments accordingly. It is unlikely that an investor with a clear vision would let that go to waste.

Q: Does Jim have plans to install hydroelectric power plants in any of the rivers running through his lands?

A: No, he has no such plans. His involvement is limited to the goal of preserving the wild salmon in the North East of Iceland.

Q: Did Jim sell the rights for a hydroelectric dam in Þverá?

A: No. Statements to the contrary are based on a certain misunderstanding. The sale of the rights to place by landowners before Jim Ratcliffe became involved with the river.

Q: Why did Jim not stop the plans for a hydroelectric dam in Þverá?

A: The landowners had emphasised the lease of the rights to build a dam and we did not want to stand in way of the project, given that there is nothing to indicate that a dam would have a negative effect on the salmon, which does not run up Þverá. However, we put in place certain stipulations to our agreement making sure that the any operations had to be environmentally sound and that the environment would enjoy the benefit of the doubt. Among them the demand that an environmental assessment of the project takes place, even if it is not required by law for dam projects of this size.

Q: Is Sir Jim Ratcliffe opposed to changes being made to Icelandic laws relating to farm purchases by parties from outside of Iceland?

A: Jim monitors with interest the discussion about the land purchases of foreigners in Iceland and always abides by Icelandic laws and regulations. The only changes he might oppose would be those that might undermine the ongoing conservation work in which he is actively investing, in the North East of Iceland.

Q: How many of the farms bought by Sir Jim Ratcliffe are being farmed?

A: The same number that were being farmed before he bought them. All the farms that were being farmed continue to be farmed. As of yet no farmer has left a farm bought by Jim Ratcliffe. In fact farmers and their families are encouraged to continue to run their farms and to pass them onto next generations.

Q: Why do farmers want to keep farming property they have already sold?

A: In this case the interests of seller and purchaser can well coincide. In some instances, heavy debts have been lifted from farms making it more economical for the farmer in question to continue his operations in accordance to the lease with Jim. Active farming then helps maintain the quality of habitats alongside the rivers.

Q: Does Sir Jim Ratcliffe make any specific demands of the farmers that continue farming a property bought by him? A: Only to maintain their traditional agriculture and the quality of habitats alongside these rivers, as well as providing direct support to local communities.