A new government initiative spearheaded by Svandís Svavarsdóttir, head of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, aims to bring comprehensive policy reforms and transparency to the fishing industry.
The initiative, entitled Auðlindin Okkar (Our Resource), arose out of several working groups that were commissioned earlier in the year in line with the Agreement on the Platform for the Coalition Government between the Independence Party, the Left Green Movement, and the Progressive Party. In the coalition charter, it states the following regarding fisheries:
“A committee will be appointed to map the challenges and opportunities in fisheries and related sectors and to assess the macroeconomic benefits of the fisheries management system. The committee will be tasked with comparing the situation in Iceland and abroad and submitting proposals to maximise Icelanders’ potential for further success and societal consensus on the framework of the sector. The committee will also discuss how transparency in fisheries companies’ operations can be increased, especially among the country’s largest companies. In addition, the committee will evaluate the success of employment and regional quotas and summer inshore handline fishing in supporting the rural economy.”
In the estimation of these working groups, the time has come for a new approach.
Earlier this year, Svandís stated that “there is a deep feeling of injustice among the public […] I think that feeling stems mainly from two things; the consolidation of quota and the feeling that the profits from the shared resource of the people are not divided fairly. The aim of this work is therefore efficient and sustainable utilisation of marine resources in harmony with the environment and society.”
Now, Our Resource aims to shine daylight on a very powerful sector of the Icelandic economy that some say borders on oligarchy. There are, for instance, just four companies that collectively own 60% of all Iceland’s fishing quota: Samherji, Brim, KS, and Ísfélagið.
A central aim of the initiative will be a thorough mapping of the management and ownership of Iceland’s major fishing concerns. Many details of the property relations in these concerns remain in the dark, and Our Resource hopes to be able to better supervise the industry. According to the government website, “[t]he inspection is primarily intended to increase transparency and improve administration in the field of monitoring management and ownership relationships in the maritime industry. The examination includes the collection of information and the mapping of the property relationships of fishing companies that have been allocated a certain amount of fishing permits and the influence of fishing company owners through the exercise of voting rights and board seats in companies.”
This initial mapping report on the industry is to be published by December 31, 2022.