Sustainable before it was the norm

Facts & figures

Cod & Haddock
15-25 fishermen
Patreksfjörður, Iceland


Way back west of Iceland is the small village of Patreksfjörður, where nature is so overwhelming you don’t know where to look. The village is surrounded by mighty cliffs, millions of puffins and an icy cold sea. In this cold, cold sea you’ll find the region’s currency: the cod and haddock.

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Because the entire local community is dependent on the cod fishery, it’s important that the fish data in Patreksfjörður remains healthy and stable. If overfished, everyone will be out of a job. That’s the case for everyone in Iceland actually - it’s historically a fishing country and remains dependent on fishery. It might not come as a surprise that Iceland is leading the pack when it comes to sustainable fish: all fisheries in the country are MSC-certified, and both the government as the fishermen focus on keeping the biodiversity high.

Fishing method

The cod fishermen in Iceland make use of longline fishing. They throw a long, thin cable with small sidelines with hooks and bait from the back of their boat.

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The risky part of this method is that other animals than cod can get caught in the lines. MSC-certified longline fisheries prevent this by making the lines heavier, by using so-called scarecrow-lines to keep sea birds away and/or by only fishing at set times. This way they prevent interaction with other animals.

The far west

Patreksfjörður is a small fishing village with 650 inhabitants. The cliffs east of the village, Látrabjarg, is known for its colonies of auks, puffins and other sea birds. A little further out is Bjargtangar, the most western point of Iceland and Europe.

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The Icelandic cod is famous for being one of the best in the world. That’s because it’s bigger than average, has clear white fish meat and is nice and firm. In the Netherlands we mostly eat the fillets, often deep fried nuggets as ‘kibbeling’ or breaded fish called ‘lekkerbek’, but because you can use every part of this fish, you can go all out with it in the kitchen. Cod liver for example is a true delicacy!

‘My family is what makes me happiest’

Cod fisherman Thorsteinn ships out about 200 days a year. That’s why leisure time with his family is of extra value to him: ‘I love seeing that my son is also interested in fishing and enjoys it as much as I do. I hope that through him I can pass on cod fishing to future generations.’

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