With one of the most important holidays on the Icelandic calendar about to begin – the first weekend in August has long been a special one, with a national holiday on the Monday – there’s no sign of any break in mackerel production as the season is in full swing.
The August weekend holiday is especially important for the Westman Islands, which always hosts a major festival extending over several days in Herjólsfsdalur. But this year the prospect is that Vinnslustöðin will have to maintain production as its vessels continue to land catches, and efforts have been made to keep the factory running with temporary staff to keep processing going at the same time as the biggest party of the year takes place just up the valley from the harbour.
‘This has gone pretty well,’ said the company’s HR manager Lilja B. Arngrímsdóttir.
‘People generally understand that it’s difficult to pause fishing for days on end during the season. Many of our staff are happy to work over the holiday weekend, and we have done everything we can to meet the requests for time off. We were surprisingly quick to find staff to work shifts. The same applies to the construction work at Hafnareyri and the crews at sea. Organising this went remarkably well and everyone involved deserves credit for this.’
All of the four Vinnslustöðin pelagic vessels are fishing in international waters, with regular landings in rotation.
‘They have been fishing steadily. We have fished more than at the same point last year and around a third of the quota has been caught,’ said Sindri Viðarsson, who manages the company’s pelagic division.
‘Production is going well and the fish quality is improving. The mackerel have been thin, but are rapidly gaining weight and we’re seeing the quality improving with every landing.’
He commented that the downside is that fishing is a long way to the north in international waters, with pelagic vessels having to steam for around 60 hours each way.