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Salmon culture in the Faroe Islands.


The Faroe Islands, a group of 18 islands situated between Scotland and Iceland, is an ideal location for salmon culture. The islands are of volcanic origin, and Ice Age glaciers carved out deep valleys and narrow fjords where salmon can be raised undisturbed by human activities. The sea around the Faroes is influenced by the mixing of the warm Gulf Stream and the cold northern currents; this confluence generates large quantities of plankton and results in excellent feeding grounds for many species of fish. It also guarantees fairly stable ocean temperatures, between 5[degrees] and 10[degrees]C (40[degrees]-50[degrees]F) which produce healthy salmon. The basis of the Faroese economy is fishing, and fish farming is a welcome addition because the vegetation is sparse and only 6 percent of the land is cultivated. The economy is dependent upon fishery exports for nearly 97 percent of the nation's total foreign exchange earnings. In recent years, the catch of " traditional " species-cod, haddock, and whiting-has declined making fish farming a valuable source of future export earnings (every 10,000 metric tons t of exported farmed salmon yield nearly one quarter of the nation's gross national product).

Formative Years

Aquaculture began in the 1950's when a private individual began to breed rainbow trout. In 1973, the Faroese Government established a research station, P/f Fiskaaling, which took over the trout farming operations of the private firm, because of lagging production. P/f Fiskaaling began experimenting with Atlantic salmon by raising smolts harvested from local rivers; the results were poor. In 1977, the research station obtained smolts from Iceland, but the results of these experiments were also poor. In 1978, P/f Fiskaaling biologists obtained smolts from Norway which grew quickly into healthy salmon. Most Faroese salmon originate from these Norwegian salmon smolts. In 1979, the first floating cages were installed in one of the many fjords that dot the shoreline. In 1982, when these pen-raised Atlantic salmon reached maturity, the first harvest of 60 t was reported. Progress in salmon farming was slow during the formative years, limited primarily by the lack of smolts.

Smolt Production

Despite the early experiments with Icelandic and Norwegian smolts, it was the policy of the Faroese Home-Rule Government to prohibit the importation of smolts (this policy is still in force) to prevent the exposure of local smolts to diseases; all smolts used for fish farming in the Faroe Islands in the early 1980's were delivered from the public-owned P/f Fiskaaling's three freshwater smolt farms, albeit from brood stock raised from the original smolts imported from Norway in 1978. Two private farms were allowed to produce smolts in 1983 and in 1984 a new socialist government adopted a policy aimed at encouraging small producers to operate both hatcheries and small-scale (7,500 to 10,000 M3) fish farms. In 1984, the Government also established a raceway system and a smolt farm at Sundini (where it also grows sea trout). This action was especially important to help stimulate the growth of the Faroese salmon farming industry.

Government Support

The Faroese Home-Rule Government supported the start of the salmon farming industry by providing technical assistance and investment loans to fish farmers. These preferential loans provided by the Faroese Industrial Development Fund, were usually given for 10 years with a 2-year grace period, and covered up to 10 percent of the investment. Fish farms in the Faroes are privately owned, and the farmers operate them according to their individual wishes, using different methods and equipment. The Government, however, remains concerned about the effects of fish farming on the marine environment and strictly regulates salmon cage farming.

Farmed Salmon Production

The result of the efforts by private businessmen and the Home-Rule Government was a rapid expansion in the number of smolts available to local salmon farmers. By 1987, smolt production was estimated at 3 million and was expected to yield approximately 9,000 t of mature salmon by 1989. With a growing supply of healthy smolts, salmon harvests went from 470 t in 1985 to an estimated 4,800 t in 1987 (Table 1). Fish Farm Board

In 1985, an 8-member Fish Farm Board was established, replacing an earlier 4-member committee formed in 1981. The new Fish Farm Board was given the following responsibilities: Reserve suitable areas for future fish farming, expand smolt production to keep pace with salmon farming, limit marine farming in areas vulnerable to environmental effects of fish farming, and produce a general plan for the use of limited freshwater resources. The Fish Farm Board was also made responsible for reviewing applications for new licenses and applications to expand existing facilities. Its responsibility includes salmon, rainbow/steelhead trout, and other species being raised in Faroese waters, including mussels.

Recent Developments

Despite the increase in production in 1986-87, unexpected problems have surfaced in several dramatic instances. In the summer of 1988, an algae bloom and reports of disease occurred in some fjords. In December 1988 and January 1989, storms raged through the Faroe Islands with winds recorded at 150 mph, causing immense damage to the islands and offshore fish cages. Many offshore farmers lost all of their fish and equipment to the storms, the worst in over I 00 years. The recently elected conservative government responded by offering additional licenses and financial aid to fish farmers willing to develop offshore sites using large-capacity units. Prior to the storms, Faroese fishermen operated 17 offshore cages. Data on the number of cages damaged or destroyed by the storm were not available.

Salmon Exports

The Faroe Islands, a self-governing province of the Kingdom of Denmark, is not a member of the European Economic Community, even though Denmark is an EC Member State. This has restricted the Faroe's ability to market processed fishery products in the EC. Nevertheless, most of the Faroe's farmed salmon exports go to the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the United States. (Source: IFR-89/62.)
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Title Annotation:Foreign Fishery Developments; Faeroe Islands
Publication:Marine Fisheries Review
Date:Sep 22, 1989
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