Many rivers in Iceland have enjoyed all-time record catches in 2015. Naturally stocked rivers have fared best, but those that supplement natural stocks with hatchery-bred smolts have had better-than-average years, too. An estimated 75,000 salmon were caught in the 2015 season. This compares to the best year of 84,124 in 2008 and 74,961 in 2010. However, if the catch from hatchery stocked rivers and the number of fish recaptured as a result of catch-and release are discounted, the estimated total catch from naturally stocked and therefore sustainable rivers in 2015 is about 52,400 salmon, which is near the all-time record year of 1978 when all 52,697 salmon were caught and killed.
The North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF), which supplied the figures, uses a recapture rate, following catch-and release, of 25 per cent. Orri Vigfusson, chairman of the NASF, said: “Over the last few decades the North Atlantic’s salmon stocks have been in steady decline, especially in Scotland, Norway and Canada. Norway has closed 110 rivers where the natural stocks have crashed below safe biological levels, mainly because of the negative impacts of coastal fish farms (sea lice, escapees, disease). “The continued improvement of Iceland’s salmon catches (with the exception of last year’s global collapse) shows that NASF’s philosophy on salmon management works, and works well. Iceland has enjoyed record seasons since 2005, which just demonstrates what can happen when there has been no netting of salmon for 20 years, catch-and-release is widespread and there is very little aquaculture.”
The star-performing naturally stocked river is the Miðfjarðará, which recorded 5,485 salmon in 2015, setting an all-time Icelandic record. Its average catch during the period from 1974 to 2013 was 1,488.