Icelandic cod: a success story in sustainability


Wednesday of this week, the New Bedford Whaling Museum will welcome Thor Sigfusson, president of the Icelandic- based fisheries network the Iceland Ocean Cluster .  With shifting environmental and ecologic forces at play, cod landings in our local waters have experienced rapid decline in recent years.  Although similar trends have been expereinced throughout the northwest Atlantic, the Icelandic cod fishery has remained relatively stable.  Furthermore, although cod landings in Iceland are not at historic levels, developments and innovations in the name of sustainability have stretched the dollar amount attached to each cod landed allowing for increased profitability with this historic species.

Southcoast Today, the online counterpart to the New Bedford Times, highlights some of the advancements Iceland and the fisheries group the Iceland Ocean Cluster have taken on to increase profit margins and ensure that each and every cod fish landed in Iceland is utilized to its fullest potential:

“How do they do it? Turns out that, when it comes to cod, Iceland is all-in. Only 25 percent of the cod’s export value is derived from the sale of fresh and frozen fillets. The real money now comes from “increased raw material utilization,” according to the Icelandic Ocean Cluster, a business incubator in Reykjavik focused on fostering innovation in ocean-related industries.

The materials in question — cod heads, livers, skin and intestines — are as about as raw as it gets but they are nothing to sniff at, and the numbers bear that out. In 1981, the Icelandic cod fishery produced 460,000 tons, worth $340 million. In 2011, only 180,000 tons came ashore but these “holistic” fish swelled the cod coffers to $680 million that year.”

In an effort to share how they have “done more with less,” Sigfusson will present at the New Bedford Whaling Museum this Wednesday at 3pm.  Topics will include the benefits of successful partnerships between researchers and fishermen, attracting new bright minds to this important work, and how successes seen in Iceland might be applied to some of the challenges affecting our local fishery.   

Aside from this interesting and important talk, The New Bedford Whaling Museum is a great place to visit to learn more about the history of the fishing industry in this region.  “Located in the heart of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Museum features interactive exhibits, including the world’s largest whaling ship model; displays of fine and decorative arts; collections of cultural artifacts, rare antiquities, scrimshaw and logbooks; and five whale skeletons including the rare blue and northern right.”

The museum is located just one hour south of Boston at 18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, MA 02740.