Mass Resignations From Icelandic National Culinary Team: Reject Unsustainably Farmed Salmon

Fourteen chefs have quit the Icelandic National Culinary Team in protest over a sponsorship deal the National Chef’s Club made with a salmon farming company Arnarlax. The chefs who have quit the team in protest argue that the deal flies in the face of the team’s mission to promote only products of the highest quality, that are produced sustainably, and in full harmony with nature. Arnarlax farms salmon in open pens in the ocean.

One of Iceland’s most respected chefs
Yesterday afternoon master chef Sturla Birgisson resigned from the National Chef Club in protest of the sponsorship deal. In a statement on Facebook Sturla said he could not endorse unsustainable industry that posed a threat to Icelandic nature:

“It is sad to think that at the same time as many of the best restaurants of Iceland have joined forces to protect Icelandic nature and the ecosystem by declaring that they only offer wild salmon, that the Chef’s Club has willfully permitted itself to be deceived by the promise of money to shill for a Norwegian owned salmon farm that produces salmon in open net pens in the sea.”

Sturla is the first Icelander who has qualified for the prestigious Bocouse d’Or, a biennial world chef championship, considered by many to be the true World Championship of Culinary Culture. Sturla has also coached the National Chef Team. His resignation from the National Chef´s Club sparked a discussion about the sponsorship deal, and prompted the mass resignation of members of the National Culinary Team.

Unsustainable and dangerous production methods
Conservationists and environmentalists have pointed out that salmon farmed in open net pens in the ocean are a threat to wild salmon stocks. Open pens also produce significant quantities of both plastic and biological waste which threatens marine ecosystems. Conservationists, including the Icelandic Wildlife Fund, have pushed back against plans for a dramatic increase in salmon farming in open net pens in the Westfjords and Eastfjords.

Jón Kaldal, the spokesman for the Icelandic Wildlife Fund says that plans to expand salmon farming in open net pens is a threat to Icelandic nature:

“Open net pens in the ocean are a terrible method to produce food. Conditions in the pens are horrendous, as many as 20% of the animals die in the pen from diseases and other complications. The pollution from the open net pens then flows directly into the ocean, and the farmed fish also escape in large numbers, posing a serious threat to wild salmon stocks. Wild salmon stocks mixes with these farmed animals, destroying their unique characteristics.”

Jón, and the chefs who have resigned from the National Chef Team stress that they have nothing against farmed salmon: It is open net pens which are the problem. “Salmon farmed on land or in closed pens does not pose these dangers to nature,” Jón argues.”The temperature and conditions in closed pens can be controlled, providing better conditions for the fish, while also protecting the ecosystem from both disease and the accidental release of fish.

No response from the National Chef’s Club or Arnarlax
The Icelandic Culinary Team is composed of the seventeen chefs most talented chefs of Iceland. The team’s mission, according to its website, is to “be a leading force in strengthening culinary professionalism and interest, increase interest among young people and be an inspiration in Icelandic food culture.” The fourteen chefs who have quit the team believe that the sponsorship deal with Arnarlax violates this mission.

Pictured Above: Sturla Birgisson One of Iceland’s best chefs is also an avid fly fisher and an outdoorsman. Here he is posing with a salmon he caught earlier this summer. Photo/Sturla Birgisson, Facebook

Link to original Iceland Magazine article here