WeAreAquaculture contacted Matorka CEO Christo du Plessis to ask how the company, staff and local community are faring, now almost one month since earthquakes damaged Matorka's arctic char farming facility in Grindavík, Iceland.
The port town of Grindavík remains evacuated following earthquakes due to volcanic activity in the Reykjanes Peninsula, south-west Iceland, during November.
What has Matorka been working on since the last update? Have you made any repairs or changes following the earthquake damage last month?
"We have been very busy stabilizing farming operations by moving fish to empty damaged tanks and making space for juvenile fish that are to be transferred to the grow-out farm soon."
"We sadly lost one tank of harvest sized fish and in co-operation with our biomass insurers the fish were removed over two days and the claim finalized and settled within a week after that. We have lodged a claim for the infrastructure damage to a few tanks and a building on the farm."
"As our rented processing facility in Grindavík suffered structural damage, including some cracks in the floors, it is no longer fit for food processing. We immediately started a search for an alternative facility and found one in the nearby town of Hafnarfjörður."
"We have signed a medium-term lease and set up all our equipment in record time. The new facility was licensed for use by the Icelandic food safety authorities on the 4th of December and we proceeded with a small harvest on the same day to ensure our logistics between the farm and processing was up to the expected standard."
"We have more than doubled the harvest today (December 5th) and will ramp to full processing capacity from tomorrow. We remain in contact with the owners of the processing facility in Grindavík and hope to return there in due course once the damage has been repaired."
How are things looking for Matorka in the run-up to Christmas?
"We are in regular communication with our customers, key suppliers, lenders as well as shareholders to keep them updated."
"We are very positive about our future prospects and still have a full pipeline of fish of all sizes. We are confident of fulfilling orders for the Christmas period and ramp up total harvest quantities in Q1 2024 as planned prior to the earthquakes."
Do you have any more news about the situation in Grindavik? Have there been further earthquakes or damage to the town?
"There have not been any further large earthquakes in the town. The official assessment is that the risk of an eruption in town has largely disappeared although there is still a chance that an eruption could occur in the larger area."
"Life is slowly returning to the town with a few businesses re-opening, including fish processors. Residents are still not allowed to overnight in the town and authorities are repairing damaged roads and critical infrastructure such as water, heating- and sewerage pipelines."
"We are hoping for some good news that our staff and other residents may return to their hometown soon."
How are the staff doing, especially considering some may still be out of their homes over Christmas?
"Our team has been amazing since the start of the seismic events. They have shown their commitment to our fish by providing the best possible care in very difficult circumstances."
"Some staff members, especially those with children, need some time to get settled in new towns while they wait for good news from Grindavík. Where possible we have facilitated transport for staff to get to the farm and new processing facility and we will assist any staff member that chooses to return to work."