Even by Icelandic standards, the village of Bildudalur near the northwestern tip of the island is considered remote. It is also, however, an ideal place to raise salmon. Now salmon are helping to revive that threatened community.
For more than a thousand years, Icelanders relied on the annual salmon return, and the people remain fiercely protective of the fish and its habitat. Thus Icelandic salmon farms must operate in compliance with environmental regulations which are among the strictest in the world, and farms may not operate at all in fjords that are designated as wild salmon grounds.
Near Bildudalur, where Una’s salmon are raised, the interplay between the frigid Greenland Current and warmer Irminger Current produces an ideal water temperature for both wild and farmed salmon to thrive. Careful attention to animal welfare and environmental management from hatch to slaughter means that absolutely no drugs or antibiotics are ever used in production.
“It was unbelievably sad to see the homeplace die out. Knowing full well what the salmon had done in Norway, changing the fortunes of small, local communities, we saw the same potential for that here in Bíldudalur, ” says Kristian Matthiason who founded the company that raises Una’s salmon with his father Matthias.
For generations, the village of Bildadular in the Westfjords was a lively fishing community. But by 2009, quota consolidation in the commercial industry in the south of Iceland had almost destroyed it.
The Matthiason family has strong roots in Bildudalur. From the beginning, their company, Arnarlax, has had a simple philosophy: people and community are the foundation for everything. After years running salmon enterprises in Norway, father and son returned with a plan — to raise excellent salmon and revitalize coastal communities in Iceland. Today, people are coming back to Bildadular, buying homes, and making investments once again in the village.
In the Kitchen
The frigid inshore waters of the Greenland Sea are ideal for growing salmon — the cold water encouraging the accumulation of fat, and the swift current keeping the fish active enough to build thick muscles. Together, this results in a salmon that is excellent raw, grilled, and almost everywhere in between.
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