Between 20 and 30 Japanese tuna fishing ships have been fishing just outside the borders of Icelandic waters, indicating that there is enough tuna for fishing within Icelandic jurisdiction, RÚV reports. Icelandic authorities release a tuna fishing quota, but it has rarely been used in recent years. Icelandic fishermen would need to acquire special ships in order to make tuna fishing commercially viable.
Japanese ships have fished for tuna in the North Atlantic for decades, but how far north they venture varies. Around 15-20 years ago, it was common for Japanese ships to dock in Reykjavík harbour for provisions. According to information from the Icelandic Coast Guard, some of the Japanese ships that have been fishing near the Icelandic jurisdiction in recent years have been granted permission to enter into Icelandic waters due to weather and sea conditions.
Quota mostly unused
The quota given this year is 225 tonnes and it is mostly unused. Fishing company Vísir, based in Grindavík, Southwest Iceland, is one of the few Icelandic companies that has fished tuna, and did so for three years. “Not everyone agreed that it was profitable but we enjoyed it and gained valuable experience in those three years,” states the company’s CEO Pétur Hafsteinn Pálsson. “As fun as it was in the beginning, the excitement wore off when the weather started to worsen and the catch to decrease, [the tuna] seemed to swim out again and didn’t come as near to land.”
Specially-designed ships required
Vísir used wet fish trawlers to fish tuna, slightly adapting them for the purpose. The fish were sent to Japan by air. Now that the tuna is further from land, specially-equipped freezer trawlers would be required to store the fish, and no such ships are currently available in Iceland. “First of all you have to freeze it at a much lower temperature than a regular fishing boat can do, so you need both a very low temperature and quick freezing,” Pétur stated. While tuna fishing isn’t entirely out of the picture sometime in the future, the pandemic has delayed all such projects in the industry.