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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Icelandic Businessman Takes Ecology Prize

SAN FRANCISCO -- When Orri Vigfusson saw wild salmon populations plummet in the frigid waters off Iceland, the former banker and vodka entrepreneur decided to use his business skills to save what he considers "the most spectacular creature on Earth."

In 1989, the Iceland native founded the North Atlantic Salmon Fund, which has raised $35 million to buy fishing rights from commercial fishermen in England, France, Greenland, Iceland and Norway. By paying fishermen not to fish, the fund estimates more than 5 million salmon have been spared.

"Fish stocks everywhere are in decline," said Vigfusson, 64, of Reykjavik. "Through green capitalism, we can restore those stocks effectively -- and yet very inexpensively -- and make sure everybody benefits."

Vigfusson is among this year's winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize, the most prestigious award for environmental activists. The recipients, chosen from six regions of the world, will receive the $125,000 award at a ceremony at the San Francisco Opera House on Monday.

The prize has been awarded to 119 people from 70 countries since philanthropist Richard Goldman and his late wife Rhoda created it in 1990. The winners, announced around Earth Day each year, are nominated confidentially by environmental groups and individuals worldwide.