In a recent Morgunblaðið editorial, Gísli Gíslason, regional director of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in the North Atlantic, has warned against the dangers of overfishing.
“It’s time for someone to take the initiative and to lead the international community to an agreement. Everyone would benefit, including the fish stocks, marine ecosystem, fishing industry, and consumers,” Gísli said.
The MSC is a UK-based international non-profit organisation, which sets standards for sustainable fishing. Its ecolabel is awarded to fisheries which follow its guidelines for sustainable fishing. Iceland has run afoul of MSC guidelines in the past, its lumpfish fishery having its MSC certification suspended during the first year of its validity for excessive bycatch in nets, including seabirds and seals. This small-boat fishery has since regained its certification after introducing necessary changes, including the closure of certain fishing areas, hunting bans, increased observation, and mandatory logbook registration.
Such small-boat fishing is by nature on a smaller scale than the trawler fishing that takes place in deeper waters, the subject of Gísli’s statements.
According to Gísli, 27% of fish stocks were reported as overfished in 2019, a marked increase from previous years.
He specifically called on the coastal nations of the North Atlantic, including Norway, Iceland, Russia, Greenland and Denmark, and the UK to reach an agreement on cod, mackerel, and herring fishing, which he says are all being fished at levels above those recommended by experts.
In his statement, he also pointed to the collapse of the Norwegian herring fishery in the 1960s as a model and warning for the present day.