By Rannva Danielsen,
On a cold, windy November day last year I got on a plane and fastened my seat belt securely in anticipation of a bumpy flight from the Faroe Islands over the Atlantic. Next stop: my beloved Reykjavík.
I first came to Iceland in the fall of 2011. I had just finished my bachelor’s degree and had landed an internship at the Faroese Representation to Reykjavík. I had no desire to leave Iceland when my internship ended so I enrolled in a master’s programme at the University of Iceland, and what was supposed to be a six-month stint in the original Land of Fire and Ice turned into three years.
This time around I was here for a secondment at Matís. If you’re reading this blog, you already know that I am doing a PhD as part of the SAF21 programme and you might also know that secondments are part of the programme. Matís is a R&D institute and a partner to the project, and I was there to work with them on a report on coastal fisheries.
Supervising me during my stay was the seemingly all-knowing and super-down-to-earth Jónas Viðarsson who is also the main SAF21 person at Matís. I was to write the Faroese section of the before-mentioned report and had seen drafts of the report prior to arriving in Iceland so I had some ideas as to which direction to take it. I discussed the report with Jónas and Ragnhildur Friðriksdóttir, who also worked on the report, and got great feedback from them. It made writing the report a breeze.
But you don’t go to Iceland to sit in an office all day (although the view was great). I teamed up with the Icelandic SAF21 team members, Cezara Pastrav and Kris Edvardsson, and planned a field trip to the Snæfellsnes peninsula, which is a few hours driving distance from Reykjavík.
Jónas used his extensive network and arranged for appointments with two fish processing plants, a fish auction, and a municipal representative in Snæfellsnes. We learned about the simple challenges of living outside the capital, e.g. how some small places don’t have stable internet; we learned how fish auctions work; we learned how a big processing plant operates and its importance for the well-being of the community.
For me, the highlight of the day was seeing the inside of a highly advanced, small-scale processing plant in Rif. Sjávariðjan is a family-owned business composed of a small-scale processing plant and two coastal vessels, which provides the plant with cod, the only fish they process.
Sjávariðjan is the definition of a smooth operation. The vessels go out at the crack of dawn so the plant is filled with freshly caught fish every morning. The exact order of what happens next is unclear to me but at some point the fillet goes through a machine that has an x-ray machine and a water laser. By x-raying the fish, the machine determines where the bones are located and the water laser then removes the bones – and only the bones! This means very little of the fish is wasted and allows the plant to utilise almost 100% of the resource that comes in. At the end of the day, the fish is loaded on to a truck, driven to the airport and 12 hours after it is caught, the fish is sold in supermarkets in continental Europe. How amazing is that?