Skip to content

Goldman Prize Mourns the Passing of Orri Vigfusson

July 3, 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. 

Related Posts

The 2023 Goldman Environmental Prize is Monday, April 24


January 10, 2023

The Goldman Environmental Prize is excited to share that the 2023 Prize winners will be announced on Monday, April 24. The Prize winners will be celebrated at live ceremonies to coincide with Earth Day: at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco on Monday, April 24, and at the Eisenhower Theater at the John…

Read more

Goldman Prize Executive Director Michael Sutton on Why We Should Support Grassroots Voices


January 3, 2023 – By Michael Sutton

Happy New Year! A new year brings fresh inspiration, motivation, and possibilities. It also provides an opportunity for reflection—on the previous year, its highs and lows, and what lessons it conveys to us for the future. This past year, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in nature on several occasions. Memorably, my son and…

Read more

Five Highlights from the 2022 Goldman Environmental Prize


December 13, 2022

As 2022 concludes, we reflect on what a year it has been! Join us in celebrating some key moments at the Goldman Environmental Prize this year. 1. The 2022 Prize Winner Announcement The Goldman Prize was thrilled to welcome the 2022 winners: Chima Williams, Niwat Roykaew, Marjan Minnesma, Julien Vincent, Nalleli Cobo, and Alex Lucitante and Alexandra…

Read more