A Fishy Birthday!

22 05 2013

On my birthday, we took a trip to Suðureyri to visit two fish processing plants. The town has only 315 residents, of which 70 are employed by Íslandssaga and Klofningur. In the summers, the company has a work program for teenagers, who earn money and learn about the industry. Line, hand line and jigging of cod (Gadus morhua), haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) and catfish (Anarhichas lupus) within the Icelandic EEZ have all obtained the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certification. The companies run on sustainable energy and geothermal water, and work together to use every part of the fish (except the blood!).

This is a product! Read on to find out what it is and where it is sold...

This is a product! Read on to find out what it is and where it is sold…

The Íslandssaga plant is organized in such a way  that processing the fish proceeds in a single direction from one end to the other. The fish are brought into the plant in boxes by fork lift at the north end of the facility. In the first room, their heads are removed, and they are gutted and separated by size. They move by conveyor belt into the next room where the loins are separated from the backbone of the fish by a machine which takes both fillets off at once. From there the loins proceed to the next room, where about 20 people are working on a production line removing bones and waste material from the loins, the final preparation before packaging. Another six or seven people are working on packaging the fish, placing it in boxes, labeling, and sorting. From this room the product is either moved for delivery or frozen, with the freezer being the most southerly room in the building.  Via this process the plant can prepare between 15,000 and 20,000 lbs of fish each day.

These women are trimming

This is the stage where the fillets are cleaned and inspected, over a lighted cutting board. Most of the employees at Islandssaga are women.

The primary product is haddock, which is about 67% of their total yield (1500 tons).  About 25% (500 tons) of their product is cod, and the remaining 8% (200 tons) is what they call catfish, or what in the USA is referred to as wolf fish, a grey beast with large teeth. The largest  market is the UK as a fresh product and to U.S. as frozen products. With the exception of the guts, all parts of the fish are used. Good pieces of loin that are too small to package get crushed and used for things like fish cakes or fiskibollur.  Íslandssaga cooperates with Klofningur, the drying plant located at the other end town.

Decapitating and stacking fish heads.

Decapitating and stacking fish heads. And Klofningur is filled with almost exclusively male employees.

The heads and backbones are sent over to be dried at Klofningur. In fact, the head is approximately 60% flesh and are a niche market in only one country. This factory is incredibly smelly (compared to Íslandssaga which deals with 1 old fresh fish). The heads are separated and stacked up on trays to be loaded into the drying room. The drying room is heated by geothermal water and the process lasts around 46 hours. After, they are crisp, dull brown, and incredibly creepy. The dry heads are packaged in brown burlap sacks and put on cargo ships to be sold in Nigeria. What little is left is made into Mink and pet food.

The skin is dried and sold. To make everything from bandaids to my Birthday Gift - Cod and Salmon earrings!!!!

The skin is dried and sold. To make everything from bandaids to my Birthday Gift – Cod and Salmon earrings!!!!

You can only find the dried fish heads in Nigeria, but you can find the cod and haddock fillets at Whole Foods!




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