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Iceland's seafood industry suffering from capelin shortage, farm fiasco.

Iceland's Seafood Industry Suffering From Capelin Shortage, Farm Fiasco

Where have all the capelin gone? Anywhere but into the nets of Iceland's fishermen, that's for sure. Catch for this year has been running at less than a third of last year's levels.

As if that weren't bad enough, Iceland's ambitious fish farming program seems to be headed for bankruptcy, with the government and other investors standing to lose $135 million. Production of farmed fish and smolts amounted to only $33 million last year, and the number of working farms had declined from 105 to 92 as of summer.

Capelin fishing was suspended at the end of April, at which time the 1991 catch was running at 200,124 tons, vs. 616,295 in 1990. The dramatic drop in the capelin harvest pulled down Iceland's overall fish and seafood catch to 523,480 tons as of the end of May, vs. 932,629 last year. Catches for other species ran close to 1990 levels. Catfish was down from 166,027 to 147,027 tons, but red-fish was up from 33,353 to 43,025, and saithe from 36,955 to 40,063.

A stock census is under way for capelin, but results won't be available until next month - and even if they allow for a resumption of fishing, it may be too late to save the traditionally busy autumn-winter season. Meanwhile, short catches have been driving up prices - prices paid by processors rose 7.9% for the first third of this year. That may be good for fishermen, but packers have to wonder whether they can pass on that increase to their customers. And fish aren't all they have to pay more for: a new round of wage increases is also in the offing.

On the bright side, a stronger market is developing for Icelandic shellfish in countries like Sweden, thanks to the fact that Iceland's waters are free of pollution - an ill that has impacted on shellfish beds of other countries. And one company, Frostmar, has secured a beachead for fish and seafood entrees in Finland. The items include saithe (pollock) portions with rice and vegetables, and breaded haddock rolls filled with cheese and shrimp.
COPYRIGHT 1991 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Oct 1, 1991
Words:365
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