Fish Farming


In the middle of the 1980s there was a marked increase in the number of fish farms in Iceland. For a while there were more than 100 fish farms in operation, many of them quite small. The industry encountered teething problems and almost collapsed. Since 1992, the production has been slowly increasing, totalling 6,200 tons in 2003 in about 50 plants. Salmon is the most important species, accounting for about 70% of the production, but that of arctic char and trout has increased too. Experiments with halibut and cod are promising.

Initially, Iceland's fish farming industry was mainly practised in shore-based plants. Geothermal water, commonly at 20-50°C, is used to heat fresh water in heat exchangers, typically from 5 to 12°C. This requires a large consumption of both freshwater and seawater, adding considerably to the operational cost. However, this process is still commonly used, especially when raising trout. The electrical consumption is reduced by injecting pure oxygen into the water and thus cutting down on water changes. Farming fish in cages floating along the shore is becoming more common and has proved to be more economical than shore-based plants that produce salmon. After many years of salmon produced by ocean ranching, the production method was not found to be profitable and has been on the decline. The total geothermal energy used in Iceland's fish-farming sector is estimated to be 1,600 TJ per year. Iceland's fish-farming production is expected to increase in the future. This means increased geothermal utilization, especially in smolt production (trout and salmon).