Goldman Prize Mourns the Passing of Orri Vigfusson

July 2, 2017

The Goldman Prize mourns the loss of 2007 Goldman Prize winner Orri Vigfusson, who passed away on July 1, 2017 after a battle with lung cancer. Orri was nearly 75 years old.

Ten years ago Orri was awarded the Goldman Prize for brokering huge international fishing rights buyouts with governments and corporations in the North Atlantic, effectively stopping destructive commercial salmon fishing in the region.

An entrepreneur and life-long outdoorsman, Vigfússon first became aware of declining salmon stocks in the 1970s while fishing along the rivers of his native northern Iceland. Speaking with others who lived or fished along local rivers, he learned the extent of Iceland’s shrinking river salmon populations. In response, Vigfússon founded the Iceland-based North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF).

Since 1989, the organization has raised more than US$35 million to buy the netting rights from commercial fishers across the North Atlantic, essentially paying commercial fishermen not to fish salmon in the North Atlantic. NASF has also brokered moratorium agreements with several national governments. These efforts have dramatically improved salmon fish stocks in numerous countries. According to NASF estimates, commercial open-sea fishing in the Atlantic has dropped by more than 75 percent from 1992-2007, and river anglers in several countries in areas where nets have been closed have reported substantial increases in salmon catches. In 2007, NASF estimated that more than five million North Atlantic salmon had been saved to date.

We are proud of Orri’s life-long passion and commitment to sustainable fishing and we will miss his bright and friendly spirit. Orri is survived by his wife Unnur Kristinsdóttir, two children and three granddaughters. The funeral service will be held in Reykjavík at Hallgrímskirkja, July 10th at 13:00, click here for details. 

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