When a deal to take over a fish trawler falls through in an Icelandic village in 1983, the inconspicuous Harpa senses her chance. The mayor’s secretary buys the ship with her husband and friends and rises to prominence in the fish business despite challenges of high inflation and catch quotas.

That’s what the eight-part series “Blackport” is about, which Arte is showing this Thursday and March 30th from 9:45 p.m. He has a touch of the US cult series “Breaking Bad” (2008-2013) not only because of some scenes with drug use. But instead of sand in the New Mexico desert, there is ice in the Icelandic fjord.

Harpa (Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir) turns out to be a capable businesswoman who uses almost any means to pave her way to the top and to more money. In doing so, she takes advantage of Jón, who has fallen for her. Conveniently, he’s now promoted from mayor to fisheries minister, and he’s happy to change his voting habits for a quick bite at the hotel.

Director Gísli Örn Gardarsson paints a bleak picture of a small, snow-covered Icelandic village. The series scores with great motifs and an extremely unusual choice of topics related to the privatized catch quotas, which made for big winners but also big losers, including entire communities. After all, fish is one of the most important raw materials in Iceland. And he is finite.

With the catch quotas, overfishing should be averted. Each ship received fishing rights for a certain amount. A system that has changed over the years. These rights could also be rented, sold or inherited. Fish, actually a common good in Iceland, ended up – fillet by fillet – in the hands of big corporations – so-called quota kings.

Director Gardasson discovered the subject while filming another project. “In this remote, inhospitable region we met one of the so-called quota kings – these fishermen have become rich thanks to the fishing quotas. He was completely convinced that the sea and the fish belonged to him. That’s when we realized that, like many Icelanders, we Icelanders, knew nothing about it.” This observation gave rise to the idea for the series.

Blackport at Arte