Eating farmed fish is a matter of conscience

Discussions about animal welfare and environmentally friendly food production have increased in recent years. The debate takes on various forms and is mixed in with various issues, as recent news from the UK about the pressure of whaling opponents on retail chains not to sell fish from certain Icelandic companies testifies.

This debate is actually a bit relative, as a large part of humanity can not afford to wonder whether the animals that are put to death have suffered or not before slaughter. Such questions of conscience are, therefore, first and foremost the luxury of rich nations. But these speculations are a fact nonetheless and will probably have an increasing impact on consumer behavior in important Icelandic markets in the coming years.

In aquaculture, emphasis has been placed on establishing various regulations regarding aquaculture, and one of the points of view that has been discussed is precisely animal welfare in aquaculture production. It is therefore important to examine whether different treatment of fish in relation to animal welfare actually affects the quality of the product. If that is the case, it could affect consumers.

In the autumn of 2006, an extensive study was carried out as part of the participation of the Fisheries Research Institute (now Matís, ohf) in the EU-funded SEAFOODplus project. The aim was to examine whether farmed cod, which were produced with special regard to animal welfare on the one hand, and on the other hand produced in the traditional way, had different quality characteristics. A consumer survey was also conducted to examine whether consumers had different tastes for these products and whether different information about the fire had an effect on how consumers liked the products.

In the latest issue. Rannísblaðið covered two of the members of the study, Emilía Martinsdóttir and Kolbrún Sveinsdóttir, about the study. In short, the results indicate that if consumers did not know whether the farmed fish had been farmed with special regard to the welfare of the fish or not, they would have preferred farmed cod that were farmed in the traditional way.

It turned out, however, that when consumers received information about the farming methods, they preferred the fish that was farmed for the welfare of the fish and found it natural that fish that were farmed in such conditions were more expensive than traditional farmed fish.

These results suggest that food labeling and what information is given on the packaging is important for consumers. They also suggest that people not only use traditional senses when evaluating food, but also eat "with the heart."

Recently was also a discussion of this topic on the SEAFOODplus website

Article in Rannísblaðið


A specialist is wanted to work in Akureyri

Matís ohf. (Matvælarannsóknir Íslands) wants to hire an urgent and diligent specialist to work for the company in Akureyri. The application deadline is April 30.

Area of work:
The job involves overseeing research on pesticides in food and various other chemical research conducted by the company.

Qualification requirements:

  • University education in the School of Natural Sciences
  • It is desirable that applicants have work experience in chemical research
  • Initiative and independence in working methods
  • Agility in human relations
  • Ambition to succeed at work

    Applications with information about education and work experience, as well as recommendations, should be sent to Matís ohf., Skúlagata 4, 101 Reykjavík. Applications can also be submitted to the e-mail address

    The application deadline is 30 April 2007. It is desirable that the person in question can start work as soon as possible.

    For further information, contact Helga Gunnlaugsdóttir and Ásta Ásmundsdóttir, tel. 422 5000.


Matís' project manager position in the Westman Islands is vacant

Matís ohf. advertises for a project manager in the Westman Islands. The role of the project manager is to manage and work on projects on behalf of Matís ohf. in the Westman Islands. It is desirable that applicants have a technical or university degree in science or engineering.

Main projects:

- overseeing day-to-day operations, project acquisition and planning

- collaboration with companies and individuals on projects

- work on projects related to research and development in the field of food

- mapping opportunities

- present projects and opportunities in the environment

Applicants must have initiative and independence in working methods, good command of English and Icelandic and agility in human relations. It is desirable that applicants have a technical or university degree in science or engineering.

Applications with information about education and work experience, as well as recommendations are sent to Matís ohf, Skúlagata 4, 101 Reykjavík.

The application deadline is 2 May 2007. It is desirable that the person in question can start work on 1 June 2007.

For further information, please contact Guðjón Þorkelsson,, and Ragnar Jóhannsson,

Matís ohf is a new public limited company owned by the state, which has taken over the operations of the Fisheries Research Institute, Matvælarannsókna Keldnaholt (MATRA) and the Environment Agency's Laboratory. The purpose of the company is to conduct research and innovation in the field of food for the benefit of the economy, public health and food safety.


Find money in catfish processing

There are significant financial and environmental benefits to utilizing fish meat or protein lost in catfish processing. The value can amount to hundreds of millions of ISK based on that 60 thousand tons annual production of fresh and frozen catfish products. According to a study by Matís (Matvælarannsóknir Íslands), Brims and Toppfisk, less organic matter is released into the environment by utilizing fish meat or protein in the processing.

The study, entitled "Unused protein in wastewater from fish processing", describes an assessment of water consumption and protein loss during filleting and skinning in catfish processing. It states that if it is assumed that about 1% of raw material weight is lost during filleting and skinning, this corresponds to about 1,200 tonnes of fillet products compared to 60 thous. tonnes of annual production of fresh and frozen catfish products. The value can therefore amount to 120-500 million ISK per year, depending on whether the fish mass is priced as marlin or more valuable products for human consumption. It should be noted that various factors can affect the loss of fish meat during processing, such as the condition of raw materials and processing equipment, but its variability was not assessed.

The study found that the water consumption was about 0.5 l / kg of product during filleting and comparable water consumption during skinning when based on the processing of 2 kg of fish and 50% processing efficiency. The water was filtered with several sieves of different roughness (0.25-1mm). With coarse filtration (1mm) most of the blood vessels could be separated and straightened, but the finer the filtration, the whiter and more homogeneous the fish mass became. By isolating dry matter from wastewater, it is possible to increase the value and improve the utilization of seafood, while at the same time promoting more environmentally friendly production methods. Of course, some effort has to be put into isolating the proteins, but with relatively simple filtration equipment, a significant amount of the proteins that are now destroyed in the effluent of fish processing plants could be achieved.

Fillets of cod evaluated

The project was carried out by experts from the Fisheries Research Institute (now Matís ohf) in collaboration with Brim and Toppfisk funded by AVS Fund.


Happy farmed fish - Matís participates in an international project on fish welfare

Matvælarannsóknir Íslands (Matís) and Hólar University take part in an extensive European project involving research into the welfare of fish in aquaculture.

The goal is to define what causes stress and discomfort in fish. 60 research groups from over 20 countries are participating in the project, which lasts for 5 years. The research project is part of the European Union's COST program, which provides around ISK 10 billion for research. The project manager of the research project is Professor Anders Kiessling at the University of Ás in Norway.

Dr. Þorleifur Ágústsson, project manager at Matís, and Dr. Helgi Thorarensen, at Hólar University, sits on the board of the project. Þorleifur says that new research indicates that fish experience pain like birds and mammals, although it is not clear whether there is a similar feeling of pain as in higher vertebrates. He says that in order to study how fish experience their environment, it is necessary to elicit a biological response with stimuli and study the effects.

"Because fish do not have the ability to indicate pain or discomfort with sounds and / or facial expressions, it has mainly relied on changes in behavior as well as trying to assess stress responses."

Pollutants affect stress

Þorleifur says that stimuli that cause stress are transmitted through nerves that are connected to sight, hearing, the sense of smell and the senses that sense changes in water pressure. Environment or conditions that fish do not tolerate, such as too high a density, too high / low oxygen level, unfavorable salinity, high levels of carbon dioxide (affects blood acidity) also affect the nerve messages that reach the brain and cause stress. Pollutants (natural or man-made) also have a very strong stress effect on fish.

Farmed cod

"Stress in fish is therefore an extremely complex phenomenon, but in short, it can be said that a physiological change occurs in stressed fish from being in rapid growth in good health to being a sick fish with a low life expectancy," says Þorleifur.

Þorleifur says that it is clear that in aquaculture there are many problems waiting to be solved that are related to research on fish welfare. "It is very important to strengthen such research, not least in Iceland where cod farming is growing rapidly, because the conditions here by nature are completely different from those known in neighboring countries - Icelandic conditions therefore need Icelandic solutions."

More information can be found on the project's website:


Measurements of pollutants in food to Akureyri

Matís in Akureyri has received measurements of contaminants in food. This is a new division that will greatly strengthen Matís' operations in Akureyri. The division will conduct research and measurements of contaminants in food, such as the amount of pesticides, plant toxins and other organic pollutants that accumulate in the environment.

On the occasion of Matís 'development in Akureyri and the formal opening of facilities for such research, Sigrún Björk Jakbosdóttir, Mayor of Akureyri, presented Matís' activities in the town today. In the new field, measurements are made of the amount of pollutants in imported vegetables, fruit, fish, meat and other foods.

Matís in Akureyri will therefore play a key role in consumer protection in this country. In addition, the burn is intended to collect data that demonstrate the purity of Icelandic food. This data is intended for a database that will be useful to producers and exporters of Icelandic food as well as buyers and consumers abroad. Demands for food wholesomeness have greatly increased, and therefore Matís' research in Akureyri will support the Icelandic food industry and ensure the safety of production.

Visit to the Mayor of Akureyri

Photo:Ásta Ásmundsdóttir, chemist at Matís, Sjöfn Sigurgísladóttir, CEO of Matís, Rannveig Björnsdóttir, department manager of Matís in Akureyri, and Sigrún Jakobsdóttir, mayor, at Matís' premises in Akureyri.


Matís advertises for a business degree

Matís ohf. (Matvælarannsóknir Íslands) wants to hire an urgent and ambitious individual for a business degree at the company.

Area of work:

  • Work on a settlement with the CFO
  • Planning
  • Accounting work
  • Analytical work
  • Information for managers
  • Project management
  • Various special projects

Qualification requirements:

  • University education in business administration, preferably from the field of auditing or accounting
  • Good knowledge and experience in accounting and settlement matters
  • Initiative and independence in working methods
  • Agility in human relations
  • Ambition to succeed at work

Applications with information about education and work experience, as well as recommendations, should be sent to Matís ohf., Skúlagata 4, 101 Reykjavík.

The application deadline is 10 April 2007. It is desirable that the person in question can start work on 1 May 2007.

More information at


Export of live lobsters

Hafnar is experimenting with lobster fishing in Höfn in Hornafjörður with the aim of exporting live lobsters from Matís' lobster hotel to a market abroad during the Easter holiday, according to the latest Fiskifréttir.

The lobster will also be caught for a stay at a so-called lobster hotel which is operated in Höfn by Matís. A small lobster boat, Mundi Sæm SF-1, which is 26 gross tons in size, has been used for fishing. During the experimental fishing, the goal is to catch about 750 kilos of lobster obtained from the MRI's research quota.

"We get the highest price for live lobster for big holidays like Christmas and Easter. We are in contact with marketers in France and Spain and it will be exciting to see how test shipments of lobster from Iceland before Easter will be handled, "said Ari Þorsteinsson, CEO of Frumkvöðlasetur Austurlands ehf in a conversation with Fiskifréttir.


Cod farming: possible to greatly reduce feed costs

It is possible to reduce feed costs in cod farming significantly with a new composition of feed, according to research by Matís and partners. The results of research show that the cost of feed for farmed cod can be reduced by at least. 25%, which means a 12-15% reduction in production costs in cod farming. The results of the research have already been used in part in feed production at Laxá hf and are an important step towards making cod farming even more profitable.

In recent years, Matís' aquaculture department has worked with Fóðurverksmiðjan Laxá, Hólaskóli and other partners on research into feed for cod with the aim of reducing feed costs. The company has, among other things, received grants for the projects from the AVS research fund in the fisheries sector. Norway has been a leader in the production of feed for aquaculture, but at a recent cod farming conference held in Norway it was stated that limited development of feed for cod seems to be taking place in that country and as a result no conditions have been created to reduce cod feed prices.

13% reduction of feed costs in cod farming

The results of the experiments in Iceland show, among other things, that it is possible to use a lower proportion of protein in the feed than previously thought, without this affecting the growth of the fish. Most of the protein in the feed comes from high-quality fishmeal and the high price of fishmeal has led to a rise in the price of fish feed and the performance of aquaculture companies has deteriorated. The experiments show that it is possible to replace part of the fishmeal in the feed with cheaper proteins from the plant kingdom and thus lower the feed price even further.

IFL's aquaculture farms in the Westfjords

It was previously thought that the fat content of cod feed should not be higher than 10-15% than the results of experiments on 500-1000 gr. cod, which tested fat in feed in the range of 10 - 26%, showed that it is possible to increase the fat content to 26% without affecting the growth and quality of the fish. Fears that increased fat in the feed would result in abnormally large livers also proved unfounded, as livers ranged in weight from 8.8 to 10.8%, which is comparable to that found in well-kept wild cod. Experiments on smaller cod (about 50 gr. Fry) are starting and the results are expected in June this year.

Based on current raw material prices and based on the results, the cost of raw materials in cod feed can be reduced by 21% (cod fry) and 32% (larger cod). On average, it is therefore possible to reduce raw material costs by at least. 25% which means a 13% reduction in feed costs in cod farming.


An innovative fish tank reduces fish shrinkage

Promens Dalvík, formerly known as Sæplast, has started production of an innovative fish tank that is lighter than other tanks and has a larger intake volume than previously known. The design of the pots means that they reduce shrinkage and bruising on fish and improve the quality of raw materials. The fish tank is developed in collaboration with Matís ohf. (Matvælarannsóknir Íslands) and FISK Seafood in Sauðárkrókur and the project received funding from AVS.

The design of the pot is such that when stacking, the upper pot closes the lower one. In a four-pot position, only one lid is needed. Holes for the forklift fork have been moved to the outside of the tank so that there is no risk of dirt reaching the bottom of the lower tank when they are stacked. In this way, it is possible to reduce the load on fish in the lower layers of the tanks and thereby reduce the shrinkage and bruising on the fish.

Stress tests on the new pots have given good results at Promens. It is also expected that FISK Seafood in Sauðárkrókur will test a few pots for a few weeks before the product goes into mass production.

Information on tanks from fishing to processing

The aim is for the new tank to have an RFID chip that stores information about fish from fishing to processing and ensures traceability through processing. Such information is important for sales in the market because it promotes an increased flow of information and increases security. The information system is developed in collaboration with FISK Seafood, Maritech and Matís, but AVS also supported this part of the project.

Bjarki Magnússon at Promens in Dalvík says that there is a lot of interest in this production, it became abundantly clear when the tank was officially presented at the Fisheries Exhibition in Brussels, Belgium last year.