Iceland Review: Tonnes of Salmon Die in Arnarlax Fish Farms

Around 500 tonnes of salmon have died recently in Arnarlax’s open-net fish farms in the Westfjords. The company’s board chairman told RÚV that number is within the limits projected by the company. The chairman of the Federation of Icelandic River Owners expressed concern about the deaths and the impact Arnarlax’s operations could have on wild salmon.

Though salmon regularly die in open-net fish farms, 500 tonnes is more than is usual for this time of year. Kjartan Ólafsson, the chairman of Arnarlax’s board says recent extreme weather has led to casualties. According to Kjartan, cool sea temperatures cause salmon to move further down in the nets and rub up against them. The rubbing can cause wounds that eventually lead to the fish’s death.

It is currently slaughter season for Arnarlax’s fish farms, and several ships are docked in the Westfjords to assist with the process. One of them is the Norwegian Gannet: equipped with 14 gutting machines, it is the world’s largest floating salmon processor. Arnarlax expects to harvest 10,000 tonnes of salmon this year, and Kjartan says the 500 tonnes of casualties were within the company’s projections.

Jón Helgi Björnsson, chairman of the Federation of Icelandic River Owners (Landssamband veiðifélaga), said the farmed salmon deaths were concerning. “Basically, it just can’t be normal for 500 tonnes of fish to die in a short period of time. If that’s natural, then of course people have to start wondering if this is an industry people can justify being engaged in. That’s a huge amount of fish that’s dying there.”

Jón Helgi also expressed worry that foreign ships like the Norwegian Gannet could transmit infections to Icelandic fish farms which could then affect wild stocks. “How are these ships disinfected? How does one disinfect an entire ship that is working at salmon farms abroad? We are very concerned that infections from abroad can be transmitted via these ships because of course they are used when similar situations occur elsewhere.””

Birds Sing to Their Eggs, and This Song Might Help Their Babies Survive Climate Change

Text from Smithsonian Magazine

” Embryonic learning—things birds pick up from their parents while still in the egg—may play a bigger role than imagined. ”

” Birds feeling the heat from warming weather may be able give their offspring an early weather advisory right through the eggshell—which could in turn help baby birds prepare for the forecast.

A new study shows that the songs zebra finches sing to their eggs late in development may give the young a head start in dealing with warm weather once they hatch.

Researchers have long known that birds like chickens or quails, which hatch fully capable of fending for themselves, can hear through their eggs—allowing them to imprint things like who their mother is. But or around 50 years, nobody believed anything happened inside the egg with birds that hatch dependent on their parents.

A new study published today in Science upends that wisdom, showing that certain zebra finch calls can change their young’s growth and behavior in adulthood.

Article by Joshua Rapp Learn. View the full article here.

Read the Scientific Journal: Design, synthesis, and testing toward a 57-codon genome.


What happens when the Bering Sea’s ice disappears?

030219_arctic-sea_featMISSING ICE Cameras, like this one, set up in the Chukchi and Bering seas, record how much light reaches through the melt ponds that sit atop sea ice. More light means more algal blooms grow below the surface. K. FREY

‘Record low sea ice in 2018 sent ripples through the entire Arctic ecosystem’

“There were early signs that conditions in 2017 and 2018 were going to be different. By November 2017, the sea ice was already late. The air above the waves wasn’t especially warm. In fact, the air temperature was typical for that time of year, Phyllis Stabeno, a physical oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, reported at the December meeting. But an unusually persistent wind was blowing from the south, she said, preventing the ice from drifting down from the Chukchi Sea as it would normally.

The wind tapered off by December and January, but by then air temperatures were higher than normal. The Chukchi Sea, normally at least 80 percent covered by thick, tough, icebreaker-testing pack ice by January, still had large open swaths of water. That meant less ice was available to migrate southward through the Bering Strait.” – Carolyn Gramling, 2014. Read the full article here.


Anthropology Research Proposal: On Chinook Salmon

Replenishing Major Food Sources of Native Alaskan Tribes: Managing Yukon River Chinook Salmon Populations

Megan Lorino, UAF Wildlife Biology and Conservation Studies



Populations of Chinook Salmon have been dwindling in the Yukon River for many years and have been monitored closely by scientists with the goal of bringing healthy populations back. Native Alaskan tribes have always relied heavily on these salmon populations as a major food source. The United States and Canada came to an agreement in 2016 known as the Yukon River Salmon Agreement; the goal of this agreement was to begin working on restoring healthy salmon populations which end up being harvested in both Canada and the United States. Climate Central reported that in 2014 Chinook Salmon populations in the Yukon River dropped so low that there was a hold put on subsistence fishing. Native Alaskans rely heavily on these salmon populations for subsistence in their tribes. “Subsistence salmon fishing is at the core of many residents’ livelihood; integrating fish wheels, dip netting and fish smoking into many Alaskans’ everyday life. Salmon are more than food or just fish – they are a way of life to many Alaskans (Beutler, 2016).” I examine possible solutions for preserving and rebuilding salmon populations in the Yukon River with the goal of replenishing this important food source for Native Alaskan tribes which still rely on harvesting wild resources in order to survive. Environmental factors such as sea ice temperature and salt concentrations will need to continue being monitored to determine where fisheries management can assist in spawning and abundance of this critical food source. 


References Cited

Alaska Department of Fish and Game, 2019. 2019 Yukon River Salmon Fisheries Outlook.


Alaska Department of Fish and Game, n.d. Subsistence in Alaska. Overview: Definition, Responsibilities and Management.


Beutler, H. 2016. Threat to Salmon Imperils Alaska’s Culture. Climate Central.


Burke, J. 2012. Alaska Natives rally for restored aboriginal hunting, fishing rights. Anchorage Daily News.


Gautier, A. 2019. Running against time: Forecasting Chinook salmon runs on the Yukon River. NSIDC Highlights. National Snow & Ice Data Center.


U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 2002. U.S. and Canada Sign Historic Yukon River Salmon Agreement. News Releases.


The revolutionary technology pushing Sweden toward the seemingly impossible goal of zero emissions

“Only 5% of the electricity Swedes consume comes from burning fossil fuels. That’s nothing compared to, say, the US, where two thirds of electricity are fossil-fuel derived. But for Sweden, even that’s not good enough. In February, the country’s green party introduced a bill that would commit the country to reaching net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2045.”

Student Proposal for Microbiology Final: Microalgae for Biofuel Production

Marine Microalgae for Biofuel Production: Implementation, Issues and Benefits
Author: Megan Lorino. May 25, 2019 

 Microalgae for use in biofuel production is a complex concept that is still being studied by the scientific community to find the best possible usage and means of production, both in cost and environmental sustainability. Algae contains twice as much protein as meat, can help end deforestation as it could replace soy protein in livestock feed, could improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gases, and can be used to clean industrial wastewater preventing harmful runoffs as it can even grow in polluted water (Medium, 2017). The technology and the biology needed to produce livestock feed made of microalgae exist, it’s just the process of developing an economically sustainable price-range for production.

Algae has been mentioned frequently in recent environmental news topics. It is often seen as environmentally toxic and damaging. It is important to understand the difference in microalgae species regarding those which do not produce harmful side effects [to the environment, wildlife, or humans] and those which may cause harmful algal blooms, such as the toxin-producing Ostreopsis (Gallitelli, Unagro, Addante, 2005), which is less than one percent of all algal blooms (NOAA, 2018) . The potential use of non-harmful algae in biofuel production comes with many challenges, but there is quite a bit of research that proves it could be a worthwhile change in comparison to fossil fuel usage. One major concern is that algae will never be able to meet the increasing demand for liquid fuel in the United States (Dietz, 2017). The greatest challenge we still face is finding a renewable energy source and create an industry that will operate sustainably, and can also be cost competitive with existing energy sources (Hannon, Gimpel, Tran, Rasala, Mayfield, 2010).

An article from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute laid out the concept of algal farms adjoining the sea. They stated that marine microalgae could be grown in areas that avoid land competition, and the use of freshwater would not be required in the growth of marine microalgae, which is an expensive source that is becoming more scarce (Dietz, 2017). Algae is a renewable energy source that is an eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels. Researchers in Koana, Hawaii have demonstrated that algae uses photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide into vital oils and biomass, which then produces Omega-3 fatty acids, animal feed and biofuels. Chuck Greene of Cornell University developed a design which shows that algal farms could be used for more than just energy, but also for sustainable fish farming (Dietz, 2017).

Researchers have developed a process called Combined Algal Processing (CAP). This method hydrolyzes the carbohydrates to monomeric sugars by using sulfuric acid and elevated temperatures. These researchers have proposed that corn, cane, and cellulosic sugars can be substituted by these microalgal sugars (Pienkos, PhD., 2018). Dr. Martin Gross of Gross-Wen Technologies has developed an algal farming method that involves vertically oriented conveyor belts that slowly rotate into wastewater containing nitrogen and phosphorus, which the algae needs to grow. The conveyor belt method allows the algae to receive the water, CO2, and sunlight needed to grow as it passes in and out of the water (Hammerich, T., 2018). For any algae farm, water and nutrients must be available at lower costs and farm worker costs at reasonable rates in order to keep operation and production costs at a minimum (Clifford, n.d.).

The growing conditions and larger size of macroalgae makes them more difficult to cultivate in a controlled environment (Walker, 2013). Microalgae is not yet economically viable to produce on a larger scale as it is simply too expensive to switch the world’s livestock feed from the current soy-based feeds being used, to a feed using microalgae instead. Scientists are still working on ways to gradually implement a cost-effective method of producing animal feeds with microalgae (Medium, 2017). Open and closed pond designs are both possible, and offer variations in sizes, CO2 utilization, evaporation losses, cell density, energy consumption, among many others. Closed pond systems offer much better control and therefore higher productivity, but come at a much higher cost (Clifford, n.d.).

In 2005, Ocean Nutrition Canada was working on a project screening marine algae samples and discovered a single-celled microorganism producing triacylglycerol oil in substantial quantities in one of the samples – this oil is a base for biofuels (Brenhouse, 2010). Petroleum is derived from ancient algae deposits but is a limited resource which will either run out or become too expensive to continue using (Hannon, Gimpel, Tran, Rasala, Mayfield, 2010). Coal usage results in harmful waste in the environment, acid rain, disruption of wildlife, and aside from the dangerous effects, there are limited stocks of coal remaining and this source will soon be depleted (Fossil Fuel, 2019). Certain species of microalgae can be a suitable alternative for next generation biofuels due to their high amounts of oil and fast growth rate. Using modern technology, these oils can be extracted and refined into transportation fuels (Gouveia, Oliveira, 2009). Microalgae use far less water and do not displace food crop cultures, as mentioned from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, algae farms would not need freshwater and would be placed along the sea. Marine microalgae, Nannochloropsis, proved to be a sustainable source of raw materials for biofuel production (Gouveia, Oliveira, 2009).



Medium. (2017). How algae could help solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

Dietz, E. (2017). Environmental and Energy Study Institute. Marine Microalgae: The Future of Sustainable Biofuel.

Hannon, M., Gimpel, J., Tran, M., Rasala, B., Mayfield, S. (2010). National Center for Biotechnology Information. Biofuels from algae: challenges and potential.

Fossil Fuel. The Disadvantages of Coal. (2019).

Gouveia, L., Oliveira, A.C. (2009). SpringerLink. Journal of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology. Microalgae as a raw material for biofuels production.

Gallitelli, M, MD., Unagro, N, BD., Addante, L.M. MD. (2005). Respiratory Illness as a Reaction to Tropical Algal Blooms Occurring in a Temperate Climate.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2018). Are all algal blooms harmful?

Brenhouse, H. (2010). The New York Times. Canada Produces Strain of Algae for Fuel.

Walker, K. (2013). AZO CleanTech. What are Algae Farms?

Pienkos, P.T. PhD. (2018). R&D. New Algae Biofuel Production Method Could Someday Compete With Petroleum.

Hammerich, T. (2018). Medium. Future of Agriculture. Algae Farming.

Clifford, C.B. (n.d.). Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. 10.4 Design of Algae Farms.