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Wild, Icelandic freshwater fish


Freshwater fish species in Iceland are few but occupy many different habitats. There are many different sub-populations that in some cases have developed different phenotypic characters; such as is the case for e.g. the arctic charr.

Freshwater fishing

Fishing rights go with the ownership of the land adjacent to the rivers. The landowners are usually farmers. All the landowners of the fishing rights in a river system are obliged by law to form a fishery association, which manages the exploitation, within the frame set by Act 61/2006. In earlier centuries, freshwater fishes were a part of local food. Today, fishing by rod in rivers and lakes is a popular activity and has become a significant part of the tourist industry.

There are over 1,600 lakes in Iceland (definition of lake: area more than 0.1 km²) and populations of trout and charr are to be found in most of them. Rivers where salmon can be found are approximately 110-120, some of which also inhabit populations of charr and trout. Rivers with only charr populations are many, but the exact number is unclear.


Artic Charr foto by Guðni Guðbergsson

Generally, freshwater fish populations in Iceland are in a good state according to size-measurements based on catching registration. The lifecycles of these populations are the result of a long time development between the environment and the respective population. Therefore, any changes in the environment of those fishes can be damaging for individual populations or the species as a whole. Equally important is the sustainability of fishing, as set by law.

In the last decades the influence of big power plants and mining on local habitats of the Icelandic freshwater fishes has been of major concern. For the future of freshwater fish populations it is of great importance that the utilization is sustainable and that selection is according to Act 61/2006. It is important to increase reserch and knowledge on the influence of utilization based on genetic characteristics of the populations and if selection by catching has an influence.

International cooperation

Iceland is a member of two international organizations of relevance to fresh water fish. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) coordinates and promotes marine research on oceanography, the marine environment, the marine ecosystem, and on living marine resources in the North Atlantic. The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) has as a main objective to conserve, restore, enhance and rationally manage wild Atlantic salmon.

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