The sea teeming with life
‘We’ve been on the Hali grounds the last few days and conditions here are excellent. There is a lot of capelin here, so the fish is in good condition and unusually big. For example, the saithe we had the other day were that big that we had to hand fillet around half of it that was too big for the filleting machines,’ said Trausti Egilsson, skipper of HB Grandi’s factory trawler Örfirisey RE, although when we spoke to him, the ship was heading for a lee in the Ísafjördur Deep to sit out a storm.
‘The weather’s terrible and there’s driving snow as well. This isn’t fishing weather and the only thing to do is to seek shelter and wait for the weather to improve,’ he said.
It’s nothing new to say that the quota situation isn’t making life easier for trawler operators. Örfirisey’s cod quota is only 900 tonnes and Trausti Egilsson said that it would be no problem to catch that in a short time.
‘We’re always on a knife edge. We came up here looking for mixed fish, so we could keep the cod back and have a trip on saithe and haddock. But unfortunately these species all swim together so we have to be careful.’
According to Trausti Egilsson, this has been a good year and he said that the natural conditions in the ocean show good growth and distribution of fish stocks.
‘The problem is that haddock isn’t so easy to catch, but everything else is in good shape, or better. The redfish stock, for instance is in a much better shape than the size of that quota would indicate. Now there are trawlers getting good hauls of redfish here on the Hali grounds, which nobody would have expected would be possible a few years ago. The temperatures have risen and the fish have spread further as a result. A fine example is that there is increased fishing on monkfish in the northern of Iceland. I was brought up in Súgundafjördur and remember that it was an event when a fishermen brought a monkfish ashore around the middle of the last century. It was that special an event that the fish was stuffed and is there to be seen in Sudureyri,’ Trausti Egilsson said, and commented that it is clear that sea temperatures have risen.
‘One degree makes a big difference, even if it’s a change that takes place over twenty or thirty years. We all know that every species has a temperature that it prefers and Greenland halibut is a good example. Last year there was very poor fishing on Greenland halibut on the traditional grounds off the Westfjords until the week before Christmas and there was some good fishing well into January. Now there is more Greenland halibut off the north and it’s due to temperature. We can say the same about golden redfish and deep redfish. Their distribution is far wider than the scientists are aware of and in my opinion the quotas for both species could be increased significantly,’ said skipper Trausti Egilsson, who was expecting to finish his trip on the 22nd of December.