Parliament Approves ISK 2.2 Billion for Aquaculture Oversight

fish farming iceland

Parliament has approved ISK 2.2 billion [$15.9 / €15 billion] in additional funding for aquaculture oversight, following concerns raised by the Icelandic National Audit Office, Mbl.is reports. Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir highlighted measures already taken, including the purchase of underwater drones for monitoring and stressed the importance of preventing fish escapes from pens.

Funding increased based on reviews by National Audit Office

Svandís Svavarsdóttir, the Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, has revealed that Parliament has approved additional funding for the Marine & Freshwater Research Institute and the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority in relation to aquaculture, amounting to about ISK 2.2 billion [$15.9 / €15 billion] over the next five years, Mbl.is reports.

“This funding was decided and granted, among other reasons, due to the concerns raised in the administrative review by the Icelandic National Audit Office. The Food and Veterinary Authority has already, ten days ago, advertised six permanent positions for inspectors and veterinarians who will oversee this,” Svandís stated yesterday in a special discussion before Parliament about the accidental release of farmed salmon from open-net farms, initiated by Lilja Rannveig Sigurgeirsdóttir from the Progressive Party.

Svandís stated that the Food and Veterinary Authority had already taken measures that didn’t require legislative changes, such as – as pointed out in the aforementioned reviews by the Audit Office – changes in procedures regarding oversight of accidental release, the monitoring of the amount of feed going into pens, and placing more emphasis on internal supervision. The Food and Veterinary Authority has also invested in two underwater drones that will be used for specialised monitoring.

“Regarding penalties for major accidental releases and deficient internal oversight,” Svandís stated, “the recent escapes are being addressed at the appropriate administrative levels, and I cannot comment on them specifically. However, I can say that penalties will be reviewed in the bill that will be introduced in Parliament later this winter, and in the discussion of the preparations for that bill. In my opinion, no deviations should be without consequences.”

Svandís further emphasised the importance of preventing escapes and stated that farmed fish should be kept inside pens, not outside of them.

Protest Job Loss Due to Whaling Ban

Páll Stefánsson. Whaling in Iceland, 2010

Local councils in West Iceland are urging the Minister of Fisheries to lift the ban on whaling implemented just one day before the season was set to begin. The last-minute decision has left some 200 employees of whaling company Hvalur hf. unexpectedly unemployed and will have a significant financial impact on the western region.

On June 20, Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir temporarily halted the hunting of fin whales until August 31. The decision followed on the heels of a report that found whaling breached Iceland’s animal welfare legislation. The ban was implemented to enable an investigation on whether it is possible to ensure that hunting conforms to the legislation.

Only one company, Hvalur hf., was set to hunt whales this season. The company is based in Hvalfjörður, West Iceland, and typically employs around 200 people, most from the region, at the height of the hunting season. Both the municipal council of Akranes and the local council of Hvalfjörður have encouraged the Fisheries Minister to lift the whaling ban.

Tax and income losses

The Municipal Council of Akranes (pop. 7,986) published a resolution criticising the timing of the decision. “The ban was unexpected and a curveball to many Akranes residents who were counting on employment and income during the summer whaling season,” the resolution reads. The council estimates that it will lose tens of millions of ISK (hundreds of thousands of dollars) in local tax income due to the decision, affecting its ability to finance services to residents. The council stated that the ministry should carry out investigations before making such an impactful decision, not the other way around.

The local council of Hvalfjörður has also published a short statement on the temporary whaling ban, stating that its financial impact is significant, both directly and indirectly. “Hvalfjörður’s local council is not taking a stance on whaling with this statement but urges the Minister of Food to reconsider her decision,” the statement concludes.

10,000 Tonnes of Cod to Coastal Fishing Pool

fishing in Iceland

Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir has signed a new regulation on coastal fishing allocating 10,000 tonnes of cod to the coastal fishing pool this season. The percentage of coastal fishing of the total permitted catch of cod is now almost five percent, which is similar to the fishing season of 2022, the first year that such a large part of the total permitted catch was allocated to coastal fishing.

The coastal fishing season is from May to August. The upcoming season is the 15th since coastal fishing was established. Coastal fishing in Icelandic is in part intended to open up opportunities for smaller, independent parties within the fishing industry.

Alþingi is currently reading a bill on amendments to the law on fisheries management due to the zoning of coastal fisheries. The bill was approved for submission by the government on February 24. The Ministry of Food underlined that if the bill is passed, it may be necessary to make changes to the 2023 coastal fishing regulation in accordance with legislation.

Capelin Quota to Be Increased by 50,000 Tonnes

iceland fishing

Icelandic fishing companies are likely to be granted an additional quota of ca. 50,000 tonnes’ worth of capelin, Vísir reports. The announcement comes as the most valuable phase of capelin season, the processing of roe, commences.

Ministry to reallocate the Norwegian capelin quota

As Norwegians vessels were unable to use the full extent of their capelin allowance in Iceland – when their season on Icelandic waters concluded – the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries is expected to reallocate the remainder of the quota among Icelandic vessels, Vísir reports. As reported by Mbl.is, the authorities rejected Norway’s request for an extension in February.

This reallocation, which could comprise around 50,000 tonnes, could come into effect as early as today. If Icelandic vessels manage to fully utilise this additional quota, the value of the catch could be worth between two to three billion ISK (€14-21 million / $15-23 million).

The announcement comes as the most valuable phase of the capelin season, the processing of roe, commences. Roe-processing is expected to be in full swing around the country, as companies race against time to catch as much capelin as possible before they spawn.

As noted in Iceland Review last year, the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute of Iceland set its new advice for capelin catch quotas at 904,200 tonnes for the 2021/22 season. This quota is nearly sevenfold of last year’s quota and a dramatic shift from 2019 and 2020 when no capelin quota was issued at all.