Site details

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Flag of Iceland
5 stars - Fully protected as a national park or Natura 2000 site by national legislation
LTBR Focal Site

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A typical intertidal zone near Stykkisholmur, Breidafjordur, West Iceland. Photo: Robert A StefŠnsson

Synoptic description of site:

A wide bay in West Iceland, holding numerous small islands and a variety of habitats. This bay has a highly diverse nature.

Extensive description of site:

Breidafjordur is a wide bay in West Iceland, and no coastal region in Iceland offers a greater variety of habitats. The coast is characterized by a large number of small fjords, which open into the bay. The area holds around 65% of Icelandís rocky shores and 40% of Icelandís tidal flats. The bay in sheltered and is characterised by 2,500-3,000 small islands and skerries. It is fully saline. The subtidal bottom is probably the most diverse in Iceland.

Habitats present:
Seagrass bedsX

Description of fauna and flora:

The biota of Breidafjordur is boreal/subarctic and the fauna and flora is characterized by Eastern North Atlantic species. Several species in Iceland reach their northern limits of distribution in the bay. The tidal flats are rich in invertebrate life, and are extensively used as staging access by migratory birds. Extensive beds of the blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) occur at many sites, fed on by huge flocks of the common eider (Somateria mollissima). LŠtrabjarg, one of the largest seabird colonies in the North Atlantic occurs at the mouth of Breidafjordur. Around 7000 harbor seals and 5000 grey seals breed in Breidafjordur, which is 20% and 50% of the Icelandic population, respectively.

Pristiness: Low


There are only a few small towns in the bay, the larges with only around 1500 inhabitants

Human impact:

With a total population of around 5,000 persons, the human impact in Breidafjordur is fairly slight. There is no industrial pollution, mining or dredging. There is commercial small boat fishing for scallops and fishing with Danish seine, small shrimp trawl and hand line. Algae (A. nodosum and Laminaria spp.) are harvested.


The West Iceland Institute of Natural History is located in the town of Stykkisholmur and offers comprehensive laboratory facilities. The well equipped Institute of Biology, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, is only 2 hours drive from the area. Boats can be hired for field sampling in Stykkisholmur.

Available database and website:

No formal database is avail;able at present. The West Iceland Institute of Natural History and The Institute of Biology, University of Iceland, both have their websites


Commitment and ongoing research:

With the recently established West Iceland Institute of Natural History, research activity in the fjord is expanding. The Institute has good links to the University of Iceland. The area will be used in the future as a pristine reference area in Icelandic monitoring studies. It has been protected by special laws since 1995.