CASE STUDY: Haffjarðará Salmon river, Iceland


Scarecrow technology is helping to protect valuable salmon stocks in Iceland

While much of our work at Scarecrow is in relation to bird dispersal at various airports around the world, we also supply equipment to marinas, retail parks and farms, among others. In 2022, we were contacted by people working in a completely different sphere altogether, and they have been in touch to say how delighted they were with the outcome. Positive customer feedback is of course always gratefully received, and this has been no exception.

Iceland is rightly known around the world for its extraordinary geographical features, from volcanoes and glaciers to lakes and rivers. Tourists from all over the globe flock to the country to see its stunning landscapes, and many of them also come along for the fishing. If you’re an angler, the chances are you’ll already be aware of the rich salmon stocks to be found in various parts of the island.

One of the issues faced by those who manage the fishing stocks in Iceland lies in the behaviour of the salmon population. Traditionally, salmon live in fresh river water when young, before heading out to the ocean in early adulthood to live in seawater. At a later stage, when fully grown, they will return to the river to spawn. Adult salmon stocks are understandably popular within the fishing community, with many of them weighing around 7-8lb, an ideal weight for sporting anglers.


A perfect paradise for those who love to fish

Iceland is generally regarded within the angling community as something of a utopia for salmon fishing. The river waters are wonderfully clear and unspoilt, enabling anglers to see the fish and, just to make everything fair, to allow the fish to see anglers. Fishing is seen by participants as something of a contest between the two sides, and it’s a particularly intriguing one in Iceland.

As a result of the popularity of the local fishing, river managers in the country are keen to protect the fish, especially when leaving the river waters at a young age. Many predators will lie in wait for their inevitable appearance at various strategic spots and will look to pick them off as and when they can. The authorities have regularly made attempts to stifle the birds, often to no avail.

Last year, however, the estuary of the River Haffjarðar became home to some high-quality bird dispersal equipment from Scarecrow, specifically our Scarecrow 360 stand-alone system. This was used to broadcast bird distress calls to deter the avian population from preying on the young salmon. Black-backed and herring gulls were greatly affected by their species distress calls, although the perhaps wilier hooded gull seemed to be less timid.


Protecting a vital asset for Iceland

The overall results of the experiment were spectacular, with vast numbers of salmon able to reach the open water in safety. The equipment itself represented a tiny investment compared to the value of the fish stocks that were saved. The cost of a daily fishing licence in Iceland can vary from around 80 euros all the way up to 3,000 euros, so it’s easy to understand why stocks need to be protected and encouraged.

Jonas Björgvinsson, owner and Sales Manager for Fuglavarnir, was delighted with the outcome of the experiment, in part because the Haffjarðará is one of the world’s most expensive wild salmon rivers. He told us “There have been big problems in the past when the young salmon travel down the river and into the wild salt sea after the winter. They become confused when reaching the salt water, and the hungry gulls become particularly predatory. We enjoyed a major success with the Scarecrow 360 at this point. Later, an article about the experiment was published in the biggest agriculture newspaper in Iceland. Since then, telephone and email requests for information have been almost non-stop.”

And while this experiment was limited to the estuary of just one river, it could end up being repeated many times over. The wild Icelandic salmon can be found in around 80 of the country’s 250 rivers, and investments in the industry have been strong. British businessman Sir Jim Ratcliffe, famously linked recently with the purchase of Manchester United FC, has spent many millions of pounds on vast tracts of Icelandic land with a view to securing the fishing rights. Sir Jim is now regarded as the largest private landowner in the whole of Iceland.


A potential solution for fishing industries across the globe? 

The implications of using Scarecrow’s equipment to help protect salmon stocks can potentially be of benefit in many other countries, too. Salmon fishing is popular in the UK, Ireland, Russia, Canada and elsewhere, and many of the predator-related issues faced in Iceland will be familiar to others. The team at Scarecrow is already looking forward to fielding enquiries from river managers around the world.

Many of the best business solutions are arrived at from well outside the box, and we’re delighted that a seemingly one-off experiment in rural Iceland has led to such an impressive outcome. The salmon, a popular fish with the fishing industry, is of course also an important foodstuff for millions of people. Developments have been good for a great many individuals, communities and organisations, although not so good for the hungry gull population, obviously.



To find out more about bird control equipment from Scarecrow, why not get in touch with the team? We’re ready and waiting to hear from you, so call 01825 766 363, or write to us via the Contact page today.