Kristín Edwald represented Arnarlax in the case heard at Reykjavik District Court. Photo: Arnarlax.

Iceland angling beat owners lose bid to ban salmon farms

The owners of salmon fishing rights in an Icelandic river have lost a court fight to stop salmon farming taking place and must pay all the costs of the case.

Published Last updated

Reykjavik District Court dismissed the claims of Akurholt and Geiteyri, the owners of fishing rights in the river Haffjarðará, against Iceland’s biggest salmon farmer Arnarlax, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority and the Environment Agency of Iceland.

The fishing rights owners had demanded that the salmon farming licences of Arnarlax in Arnarfjörður should be annulled. Arnarlax, an Aquaculture Stewardship Council-certified company, is the largest farmer and producer of salmon in Iceland.

“According to the District Court ruling, the object of the fishing rights owners’ lawsuit was to prohibit salmon farming at sea in Iceland. In that regard the District Court argued that for decades the legislature in Iceland had considered the inevitable impact on salmon fishing in fresh water and taken that into account when deciding whether and to what extent fish farming should be permitted,” said lawyer Kristín Edwald, representing Arnarlax.

“Moreover, the District Court referred to the fact that the environmental impact of Arnarlax’s operations in Arnarfjörður would be more or less local and, therefore, not affect the salmon fishing in Haffjarðará,” continued Edwald.

“In essence, the District Court held that the owners of the salmon fishing rights had not suffered any loss due to Arnarlax’s operations and that they had not proved that the operation would specifically harm their interests. Thus, they did not have any particular legitimate interest in pursuing their lawsuit, which is grounds for dismissal under Icelandic procedural law.

“Arnarlax has since 2009 been through a comprehensive licence application process with the Icelandic National Planning Agency (, Food and Veterinary Authorities ( and Environmental Agency of Iceland, Umhverfisstofnun ( where the same interest groups have provided their comments and pressed charges through every step of the hearing process and ruling committee. In addition to their own costs, according to the court ruling the fishing right owners have to pay all legal costs to Arnarlax, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority and the Environment Agency of Iceland.”

The fishing rights owners now have two weeks to appeal this decision to the Appellate Court of Iceland.