Life On Board an Icelandic Fishing Boat

duddi gisla fishing boat photo

Iceland is a model for responsible fishing methods. Since the country is so dependent upon fish as its main industry, catching fish responsibly and sustainably is managed carefully by the fishermen and the government.

This TreeHugger had the chance to go out into the rolling seas on the mighty Duddi Gisla fishing boat, courtesy of Waitrose supermarkets. After the fold--a story of cod, bait, seasickness and blood.The Duddi Gisla is one of 5 fishing boats used by the Einhamar Seafood EHF. Fish from these boats, mainly cod and haddock, is exported to Waitrose supermarkets in the UK. They buy about 60,000 tons a week.

On this small, compact and very clean boat, long line fishing is done by the captain and 4 crew members. The line caught method is used to catch all of Waitrose's fish because it is less harmful to the sea's environment than trawling. It targets the fish species more precisely and the quality of the fish is better. Trawling is harmful because it removes all the invertebrates and trawled fish may get crushed in the nets.

The boats use black oil as their fuel which is considered better than diesel. There is work being done to switch to a hydrogen-based fuel for the fishing fleets but this is a longer-term goal. They hoping that within the next 50 years all fleets will be run by hydrogen based fuel.

The boat will usually go out on 4 trips a week, depending on the weather. They leave at 2 a.m. and return by 4 p.m. that day. Winter and spring are the best time for fishing.

hooks for

Ship ahoy and off we go. These lines are 17 K. long and contain 14,000 hooks. Line fed fishing is fresher because the boat returns to shore with its bounty every day. By comparison, trawlers are bigger and can trawl for up to 7 days until they return to shore.

baiting the

Each hook is baited with frozen herring by a remarkably small but efficient machine.

bait on

They let out the lines slowly; it takes about one hour and 40 minutes to let the whole line out.

Then there is a 2 to 3 hour rest period whilst the fish are feeding. The boat is very compact inside and we are talking about 4 in the morning here, so a break is welcome for a fast nap.

The First Mate of the ship said that he was proud of the conservation efforts being undertaken on the boat. He said that Icelandic fish is the purest and cleanest around the world. When asked if fishing is part of the national identity, he felt that on the coast it was, whilst in Reyjkavik it was not.

fish hauled

It takes about 6 hours to pull in the fish. Another small but efficient machine pulls in the line and the fish are flipped onto the tray. Each one's neck is slit and they are thrown into huge containers full of cold sea water. The average haul is 5,000 to 6,000 kilos. The record was 12,000 k.


Beware the catfish: they are ugly and strong. That is not a hockey stick that this one is holding on to. Catfish are surprisingly delicate and light in taste when cooked.

the haul photo

The fish are unloaded and driven directly to the fishery where they are sorted, trimmed and filleted. Stay tuned tomorrow for a trip to the fishery. Not for the queasy.

More on Sustainable Fishing
Is This the End of the Line for Fishing
Iceland is the Success Story of Sustainable Fishing

Related Content on