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Icelandic Gillnet Lumpfish Fishery Enters MSC Assessment

21 February 2013

ICELAND - Vignir G. Jónsson hf. entered its Icelandic gillnet lumpfish fishery into assessment for MSC certification. It is the first lumpfish fishery in the MSC program. The fishery will be assessed against the MSC standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries, and, if successful, Icelandic gillnet lumpfish products will be eligible to carry the MSC ecolabel.

The assessment will be carried out by independent certifier Vottunarstofan Tún ehf.

About the Fishery

Lumpfish is caught by small decked or open boats called “trilla,” using special large-mesh gillnets. Currently over 330 small vessels are registered with licenses to catch the Icelandic lumpfish within the Icelandic Exclusive Economic Zone (FAO statistical area 27, ICES Va2). The fishery is seasonal, from March to June. In 2012 a total of 6195 tonnes of female lumpfish and 30 tonnes of male lumpfish are brought ashore.

Luxury Caviar and Fish Skin a Delicacy

Lumpfish has been harvested around Iceland for centuries while fishing for the collection and marketing of the roes began in the late 1920s. The male fish (raudmagi) is caught mostly for local consumption as the female fish (grásleppa) is traditionally caught for the valuable roe which is exported as luxury caviar, primarily to the EU countries. Lumpfish is known for its gelatinousness and thick skin. In China the skin is seen as a delicacy for its taste and texture, which is similar to the popular sea cucumber.

Fulfilling Consumer Demand for MSC certified Fish Roe

Eiríkur Vignisson, CEO of Vignir G. Jónsson hf says: “Lumpfish products find their main market in Northern Europe, where the demand for MSC labeled products is high. Our customers started to ask for MSC certified fish roe and we decided to go into MSC pre-assessment. The positive outcome of this assessment made us decide to go into MSC full assessment and thereby to continue the steps towards MSC certification. Successful completion meets our customers demand and, even more valuable, equally communicates to world markets that our lumpfish fishery is sustainable.”

What the MSC Says

Gísli Gíslason, MSC Senior Fisheries Outreach Manager in Iceland says: “Lumpfish are caught along the Icelandic coast by small boat operations. Vignir G. Jónsson hf. is known for its proactive approach and progressive image and the lumpfish fishery is an important part of its total fishery activities. The fishery has now entered MSC full assessment working towards MSC certification. MSC certification will give the company tools to communicate their sustainability to its wide range of customers. We warmly welcome this development.”

About Vignir G. Jónsson hf.

Family company Vignir G Jónsson hf. was founded in 1970 in England. Two years later the company was transferred to Iceland to be closer to the source of the best raw materials. Today Vignir G Jónsson hf. has 30 employees and is the oldest manufacturer of lumpfish caviar in Iceland. The company specializes in products made out of fish roe from cod, lumpfish, saithe, capelin, haddock and salmon.

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