Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, has raised the coastal fishing quota for cod by 1,074 tonnes in a recent government announcement. Coastal fishing allowances were first introduced fourteen years ago to aid independent fishermen, most of whom live outside the capital area.
The new, enlarged coastal fishing quota now represents some 5% of Iceland’s overall cod catch, the highest ever allotment of cod for coastal fisheries. For the past few seasons, the catch quotas have been fulfilled long before the end of the season and small boat owners have called for an increase in allotments.
The increased share of cod was won in exchange for 874 tonnes of mackerel, 50 tonnes of recreational fishing, and 150 tonnes of longline fishing concession, a special category within the quota system which incentivizes the use of longline fishing over trawling and net fishing.
Svandís recently criticized the current coastal fishing quota system in an editorial in Morgunblaðið. While the past fourteen years have shown the benefits of the system, including increased financial stability for rural fishing communities, improved recruitment to the profession, and a higher-quality product, Svandís emphasized the reliance of many families and rural communities on coastal fishing and how the current system has worked against precisely the communities it was intended to serve. Stating that many fishermen had already pointed out the dangers of the regional quota system in 2019, she claims that the time for this experiment is over.
According to Svandís, the current system has incentivized fishermen to move out of poorer fisheries, and this migration has caused the fishing season to end early too many times.
The increased pot for coastal fishermen is seen as a victory for families and rural communities. In a statement to Morgunblaðið, Örn Pálsson, president of the National Association of Small Boat Owners, said that he welcomed the reform but that even these increased numbers may not suffice for the season if catches continue at their current level.