The Ocean’s Bounty (ESA)

 

In the cozy setting of restaurant L’Abri in Fosshótel in Fáskrúðsfjörður, I absorbed the local history while enjoying the catch of the day—cod in mango chutney—and admired the view of the fjord as the early autumn sun caressed the waves.

The hotel is based in the village’s elegantly-renovated French hospital from 1904. Black-and-white photos of scenes from the past adorn the walls, fishing vocabulary in French and Icelandic decorate the windows and a museum dedicated to the French fishermen who made the fjord their base for hundreds of years can be accessed through the restaurant.

Fáskrúðsfjörður fishing history is all around.

The 700-person village, known by locals as Búðir, was built up around fishing in the 19th century and today still, fishing is the inhabitants’ livelihood.

So bountiful in fish were the waters around Iceland that from the 16th to the early 20th century it attracted foreign fishermen on the hunt for cod and other marine riches.

Icelanders were late to catch on but gradually stepped up their game, established fishing grounds off limits to foreign fishermen, made fishing their main industry and, after episodes of overfishing, set up a system to monitor fishing stocks and distribute quota.

The fairness of this system is disputed but at least the aim is set for sustainability and efforts are being made to take better advantage of all the fish caught and all parts of the fish.

With a large portion of Icelanders being involved in commercial fishing, residents also have the right to catch moderate amounts of fish for private consumption.

Moderate is plenty, enough to feed the extended family. It’s a major búbót as we would say in Icelandic, or windfall, as I’ve experienced myself after my dad made sea angling in a kayak off the shore of Reykjanes peninsula his new hobby.

He fillets the fish, mostly cod and mackerel, too, and prepares it for freezing, and has even showed up on my doorstep with freshly-caught mackerel and fried it for lunch.

Mackerel is the latest addition to the Icelandic marine fauna and inhabitants are just about to discover how delicious it is. As a kid I had fried mackerel on a visit to Norway once and remember liking it but I didn’t remember it being that good.

Battered and fried in butter, served with a sprinkle of lemon juice and sour cream, boiled potatoes and pickled cucumbers, mackerel is the tastiest treat.

My freezer full of free cod, which costs as much as ISK 2,000 (USD 17, EUR 13) per kilo when bought from a store, I’ve come to realize how lucky I am to have such good access to fresh quality food.

I’ve boiled it, fried it, baked it in the oven and made fish balls, and for lunch I’m having homemade plokkfiskur stew with melted cheese.

Opportunities for preparing fish are endless as clear to anyone who’s attended the Great Fish Day, an annual free food festival, in Dalvík, North Iceland.

Visitors to Iceland can enjoy this resource of ours as well with sea angling being included in many whale watching tours and sightseeing tours by boat, complete with cooking the fish, and a number of tour operators specializing in sea angling.

And of course, you’re also free to bring a rod and cast out a line from a pier somewhere, for example in Fáskrúðsfjörður, while admiring the view of the peaceful fjord as the sun caresses the waves.

Originally published by Icelandic Review

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