Consolidation and Control of Quota Permits Under Scrutiny Skip to content

Consolidation and Control of Quota Permits Under Scrutiny

By Ragnar Tómas

Former Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir
Photo: Golli. MinisterSvandís Svavarsdóttir.

Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir has instructed the Directorate of Fisheries to increase its supervision of quota permits. The Minister has also proposed a bill to grant the Directorate of Fisheries greater authority. These measures aim to prevent the consolidation of quota permits and deter non-compliance with laws and regulations within the fishing industry.

Blackport takes Iceland by storm

Ever since Blackport (Verbúðin) premiered on RÚV in late December, the TV series has inspired nostalgia for the ’80s while also training the spotlight on the Icelandic fishing industry.

The series, whose season finale premiered last Sunday, revolves partly around the transferable quota system, which was introduced in 1984 and allocated Iceland’s fishing allowance among fishermen-cum-boat-owners.

Life imitating art

Last Wednesday, Blackport served as a segue into proposed amendments to the supervision of the quota system in a conversation between Minister of Food, Fisheries, and Agriculture, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, and journalist Sigmundur Ernir Rúnarsson on the news programme Fréttavaktin on Hringbraut.

Svandís observed that Blackport was an “excellent” series that had inspired Icelandic society to reflect back upon that “dangerous cocktail of business and politics,” noting that the temptation of corruption remained a real possibility.

Later in the conversation, Svandís discussed what she felt were necessary changes to the quota system – changes publicised in a press release on the government’s website yesterday.

Granting the Directorate of Fisheries Greater Authority

As noted in the press release, Svandís Svavarsdóttir has entrusted the Directorate of Fisheries to investigate the consolidation and control of quota permits by associated parties within the Icelandic fishing industry.

In her instruction to the Directorate, the Minister emphasised that the institution conduct a systematic investigation of the control of quota permits by associated parties and that it inform the Ministry of its findings at regular intervals.

The Minister’s instructions are founded on two reports: a task-force report on the increased supervision of fishery resources, on the one hand, and a report by the auditor general from 2018 on the Fisheries Management Act, on the other hand. (Article 13 of the Fisheries Management Act defines the allowable quota share of individual and associated parties.)

A parliamentary bill to deter non-compliance

The Minister has also proposed a bill to amend specific laws within fisheries management, which the cabinet has approved for discussion before Parliament. The aim of the new legislation, which will grant the Directorate of Fisheries greater authority, is more efficient supervision to deter non-compliance with laws and regulations applicable to the management of fishing quotas.

As noted in a press release from the Ministry: “The government must possess a clear overview of the control and consolidation of quota permits by associated parties in the industry. The systematic management of the Directorate of Fisheries is essential in this regard, and supervision must be improved. Furthermore, changes to the legal definition of “associated parties” in applicable laws are needed so that it is clear when two parties are considered “associated.” With these instructions and this parliamentary bill, the first steps are taken to make the necessary amendments in the supervision of the fisheries management system. Efficient supervision on behalf of the government is one of the conditions for engendering trust among the public in the management of the collective natural resource,” Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote.

Associated parties

According to an article in Kjarninn published yesterday, the ten largest fishing companies in Iceland controlled 53% of the allocated quota in 2020; in November of last year, the aforementioned share had risen to 67%. Parallel to these developments, the profits of fishing companies have increased significantly, with less than 30% of profits being collected by the Icelandic government in the form of income tax, payroll tax, and fishing fees, while 70% of profits settled in the coffers of fishing companies.

(This article was updated at 7.36 on February 19, 2022)

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