Amendment Not Sufficient to Encourage Tuna Fishing

Efforts to encourage Icelandic fisheries to make use of Atlantic bluefin tuna catch quotas allotted to Iceland have yet to prove fruitful. While tuna goes for high prices, specialised ships are necessary to make tuna fishing profitable. Chartering foreign boats to develop tuna fishing experience within the Icelandic fishing industry would require authorisation from the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, Fiskifréttir reports.

Last summer, Parliament passed a provisionary article allowing Icelandic fisheries to charter foreign ships to fish for bluefin tuna. While now permissible by Icelandic laws, fishing Iceland’s quota with foreign ships is in conflict with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas’s resolutions and the amendment is therefore meaningless unless ICCAT makes revisions to their regulations.

“The change was necessary but not sufficient to clear the way for tuna fishing with foreign chartered ships,” the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries stated to Fiskifréttir. “ICCAT statutes state that such chartering is prohibited. Therefore, ICCAT’s statutes would have to be altered for such chartering to take place, even if Icelandic legislation has nothing standing in its way.” According to the ministry, the change to legislation was made at the request of Fisheries Iceland.

The Ministry also noted that if no suitable application from an Icelandic ship reaches the Directorate of Fisheries by June 1, the Ministry will look into selling a part of Iceland’s permissible catch quota to cooperating states within ICCAT under ICCAT regulations.

Since Iceland joined ICCAT in 2002, it’s been issued 1292 tonnes of quota, but only 80-90 tonnes of this valuable fish have been caught in that time, and that’s including both direct fishing and tuna bycatch. While the tuna has been intermittently caught by Iceland’s shores, in order for tuna fishing to become profitable, fisheries would need to invest in specially equipped freezer trawlers capable of freezing the tuna at much lower temperatures than current ships allow.

If Iceland continues not to use its tuna catch quota, other nations or interested parties might well make a claim to it, such as Norway or the European Union, as tuna quota is in high demand. The hope is that if an Icelandic party can charter foreign tuna boats, they might establish the know-how and experience of this highly-specialised type of fishing, which could eventually lead to Icelandic fisheries investing in tuna fishing ships.

Cargo Ship Stranded Off North Iceland

Cargo Ship Wilson Skaw stranded in Húnaflói

Cargo ship Wilson Skaw, 4000 tonnes and 113 m long, was stranded on Ennishöfði in Húnaflói Bay yesterday. The ship was on its way from Hvammstangi to Hólmavík when it was stranded. The captain notified the Coast Guard in the afternoon and the Coast Guard sent its vessel Freyja to their location, as well as asking the helicopter crew to prepare. A rescue ship from the Skagaströnd search-and-rescue team was also asked to head to the cargo ship’s location.

Cargo Ship Wilson Skaw stranded in Húnaflói
Guðmundur St Valdimarsson. Cargo Ship Wilson Skaw stranded in Húnaflói

According to the captain, the cargo ship’s crew felt alright. The conditions at the stranding site were good and the weather was as good as could be expected.

Coast Guard vessel Freyja arrived around seven last night and installed a pollution fence around Wilson Skaw this morning. It shows no signs of oil leakage but the fence was installed as a security measure. Coast Guard divers inspected the ship and found that it was stuck on a 50 m stretch and won’t be budged for a few days at least. The shipping company is preparing a rescue plan, but the Freyja crew is available for aid if the need arises.

The ship might have to be lightened before it can be moved. On board are just under 2,000 tonnes of salt and 195 tonnes of oil.

Pollution fence around Wilson Skaw
Guðmundur St Valdimarsson. Pollution fence around Wilson Skaw