Laxaþjóð | A Salmon Nation
Our relationship with nature not only defines our history, it shapes our future, too. Yet beneath the surface of Iceland’s fjords, an industrial fish farming method threatens to destroy one of Europe’s last remaining wildernesses. Laxaþjóð | A Salmon Nation tells the story of a country united by its lands and waters, and the power of a community to protect the wild places and animals that helped forge its identity.
Iceland needs you
We call on the Icelandic government to show leadership in Europe and ban open net salmon farms. Sign the petition and add your voice to the movement. Open net salmon farms have no place in our wild waters.
Wild places connect us, bring us joy, and deserve to be defended. For Icelandic people, theirs is a country defined by its remote and untouched landscapes—but industrial fish farming is wreaking havoc on this pristine wilderness.
Most asked questions
“Without drastic action, wild salmon faces extinction. That’s why I am dead serious about ending the destructive practice of open net fish farming, before it’s too late. We have made every mistake in industrial farming on land and now are we’re making the same disastrous mistakes with farming fish.”
“As a fly fisherman, I have seen first-hand the way that Icelandic waters are dying more quickly than I could ever have imagined. Now Iceland has the chance to show the world that the damage can be reversed with a ban on open net fish farming.” Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia
The open net salmon farming industry is growing rapidly, across Europe and in Iceland. It is responsible for driving wild salmon to extinction, polluting Iceland’s pristine coasts and mistreating the farmed animals. The wild North Atlantic Salmon population is now a quarter of what it was in 1970.
In 2024, the Icelandic government has the opportunity to transform the conversation about salmon farming across Europe. New aquaculture legislation, due to come into force this year, if passed by Iceland’s parliament, Alþingi, will set the rules and regulations for salmon farming. It has the power to protect nature, the welfare of farmed fish, and the future of wild salmon, as well as the tourism and small-scale fishing that much of the Icelandic economy is built upon.
With 70 percent of Icelanders opposed to open net salmon farming, we are joining hands and calling on the Icelandic government to show leadership in Europe by banning open net salmon farms.
Founded 50 years ago by keen fly fisherman Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia has a long-standing commitment to protecting wild rivers and their biodiversity. We have been involved in the movement to end open net salmon farming for many years, through campaigning and modeling responsible food production with Patagonia Provisions.
In 2019, we launched the feature-length documentary Artifishal, exploring wild salmon’s slide toward extinction, the threats posed by fish hatcheries and fish farms, and our continued loss of faith in nature. That November, Patagonia representatives joined a group of NGO partners, including The Icelandic Wildlife Fund and North Atlantic Salmon Fund, to deliver the signatures of 180,000 people to the Icelandic government, calling for an end to open net salmon farming. Since then, we have continued to support and grant grassroots organisations across Europe working to save wild fish species and oppose these harmful industrial practices.
The new Patagonia Films production Laxaþjóð – A Salmon Nation focuses on the situation in Iceland – a true “Salmon Nation”. By telling the stories of individuals and communities uniting to protect one of Europe’s last remaining wildernesses, we are mobilizing public support across Iceland, and beyond, for an end to open net salmon farming.
Picture Icelandic farmed salmon and the chances are you see pristine fjords and majestic, healthy fish. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth inside open net salmon farms, but because this factory farming is hidden under the surface of the water, most of the people choosing to eat Icelandic farmed salmon have no idea what’s really going on.
Terrible conditions in the pens leads to animal distress, plus high instances of parasites and disease. Bred for maximum fat and protein, rather than the evolutionary athleticism of wild salmon, many of these stressed, virus-compromised fish will die from heart rupture. Due to various causes, one in five will be dead before it can be slaughtered for human consumption and over the last year more than four million farmed salmon have died in Iceland’s open net salmon pens. To put that number in context, it’s 72 times more fish than the total number of Iceland’s wild salmon.
Among those farmed fish that do survive, escapes from the pens happen frequently, threatening wild salmon with their parasites and diseases. Through interbreeding between farmed and wild fish, thousands of years of genetic evolution is damaged, forever. In August 2023, around 3,500 farmed salmon escaped from a single pen in Iceland and have been found across the country, in over 50 rivers.
By saving wild salmon from extinction, we are protecting the future of many other species. As wild salmon return from the ocean to the rivers where they were born, they bring vital nutrients with them, and they have an impact on entire surrounding ecosystems. By saving wild salmon from extinction, we are protecting the future of many other species.
Salmon is no longer a luxury food item for those of us who live in developed countries - we eat three times as much today as we did in 1980. But this rapid increase in consumption comes at a huge cost to nature.
Open net salmon farming is driving wild salmon to extinction, polluting Iceland’s pristine coasts and mistreating the farmed animals.
We call on the Icelandic government to show leadership in Europe and ban open net salmon farming.
Three simple actions you can take straight away:
Watch the film Laxaþjóð – A Salmon Nation. Share it with your network. And add your name to the petition.
You can also help change the system by cutting farmed salmon farmed from open net pens out of your diet and asking questions such as how, and where, your fish was caught. Communicating about this campaign with restaurants and supermarkets who sell open net farmed salmon, or avoiding them completely, are also powerful actions you can take to bring about change.