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The Economy

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Fishing and Seafood

The economic backbone has been fisheries and seafood since the early 1900‘s. The region was established on success in the seafood industry. The quality of seafood is outstanding due to the closeness to some of the world´s cleanest and coldest fishing grounds for Atlantic Cod. The infrastructure was built to accommodate export to the demanding European and US markets.  Almost all (99%) of the region´s seafood goes for export. Roughly 15% of the seafood is exported chilled and fresh straight to international markets. Other products are salted or frozen cod filets. The level of know-how in the region is extraordinary for such a small region. It has accumulated through time based on learning by doing and endless problem solving leading to excellent efficiency, best practise and high tech equipment.

The region boasts of clean environment: It is suitable for further development of modern fish farming in many of its long fjords. There are already fish farms that cultivate arctic char, (Salmo alpinus) and Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) as well as blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) to be found in the region.  Salmon farming and arctic char farming has the potential to grow into a profitable sector.  Fish farming does not have the same strict investment regulations for foreign investment as does the conventional cod-fishing.

One of the benefits of the economy is that within it the supporting and service industry for fishing, fish processing and cold storage is well establlished at each fishing port within the region. There is even a hi-tech manufacturer of automated processing solutions for fish, shrimp, salmon and poultry in Isafjordur.  The company´s know-how was developed through successful service and cooperation with the key firms. Now this knowledge can be transferred to other industries and a majority of production is for export. Similar example of know-how are applicable to other sectors of the service industry as well.

In Isafjordur there is also an innovation centre attached to marine products' and development. In Iceland the main idea is to raise eco-efficiency i.e. use every part of the resources that are captured, minimizing waste and adding value to the process. For fish, the liver oil, head, skin, guts and roes are used as well as the flesh.  

Otherwise small buisinesses have been multiplying. Small also means hihgly flexible and solution orientated .A milk factory specializing in lactose free products. Fly fishing reels that are sold world wide. Eider dow and seaweed perls as well as dog and cats´treats are among the products from Vestfirdir. 

 Tourism 

Narrow fjords, high mountain plateaus and rural charm is the best way to describe the character of the Westfjord- landscape. For many years the destination Westfjords has been a hidden treasure in Iceland.  The magnificent natural settings include 3 of Europe‘s largest bird-cliffs, one of which is the most Westerly point of Europe.  The ocean and the deep fjords play a big part in the region´s identity and recent investments in ocean related tourism such as kayaki trips, sea angling, bird and seal watchin has provided a significant growth spurt for the tourism economy. Sheep farming, eider ducks and drift wood are also strong characteristics of the historical economy. 

Though tourism has grown slightly in the region it is far from being within the context of “mass tourism”.  It is the rural charm and untouched pristine nature of the region that has ignited the travellers' interest. The popularity is such that the region is now one of the top ten most interesting places to visit according to Lonely Planet guide.  This recognition is important but equally important are the opportunities for development. Tourism would need further investment and improvements. Most apparent is the need for long term investments in 4-5 star hotels throughout the region and growth in tour operators. 

Although the region is rural it is still self- sufficient for all services and culture. There are music schools and well known festivals as well as theatrical groups. All the necessary trade and service shops are to be found in villages and the regional capital, Isafjordur. This area fits very well for winter sports of all kinds, tracking, adventure tours, bird watching, arctic fox watching, boating tours, glacier adventure tours etc.