The three largest supermarket chains in Switzerland have stopped selling wild Icelandic cod because it has not been certified as sustainable. They used to only sell Icelandic cod and have a 75 percent market share in the fresh fish market in Switzerland.
Total export of cod from Iceland to Switzerland peaked in 2006 with 2,000 to 3,000 tons, Morgunbladid reports.
Hilma Sveinsdóttir, who operates export company Ice-co GmbH., which exports Icelandic cod to Switzerland, said since 2004 her company has encouraged Icelandic authorities and companies with interest in fisheries to have Icelandic seafood products certified as sustainable.
“We have met with the minister of fisheries and other parties of interest but for various reasons people have not been willing to participate in this in response to these Swiss demands,” Sveinsdóttir said.
“The supermarkets just want a stamp that everyone recognizes so that they can sell the fish as a quality product at a premium price,” Sveinsdóttir stated. “I think environmental labeling is the largest issue of interest facing the Icelandic fishing industry today.”
Fridrik J. Arngrímsson, managing director of the Federation of Icelandic Fishing Vessel Owners (LÍU), told Morgunbladid that propaganda from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is the reason why the three largest Swiss supermarket chains have stopped selling wild Icelandic cod.
Arngrímsson claimed their decision is not just about sustainable fishing but also about the right to control fisheries; a question of whether democratically elected governments are in control or environmental protection organizations through supermarkets.
Arngrímsson said LÍÚ takes this decision very seriously. “We have requested that the Icelandic authorities do their best to prevent this from having further damaging consequences.”
“Representatives from Icelandic authorities have attended a meeting with a Swiss supermarket chain to present our point of view, but the problem is caused by these supermarket chains letting WWF control which fish they sell,” Arngrímsson said.
LÍÚ in cooperation with Iceland’s Embassy in London, representatives of the Icelandic Marine Research Institute and Ministry of Fisheries organized meetings with the main buyers of Icelandic fish in Britain to present Icelandic fisheries control and the condition of fish stocks.
The Icelandic Fishing Industry is also working on establishing certification for responsible fishing for the main fish stocks that are harnessed in Icelandic waters through their joint platform of the Fishing Association.
The certification will be based on guidelines from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and an independent party will be requested to certify fishing in Icelandic waters.
According to Morgunbladid, negotiations between MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) in Iceland, an international fishery certification program and seafood eco-label, and Icelandic seafood companies on adopting MSC certification, which would certify that fishing in Icelandic waters is sustainable, is also in the final stages.