Coastal Fishermen Face Shortest Season Ever if Quota is Not Increased

Iceland’s Association of Small Boat Owners (Landssamband smábátaeiganda) has sent a formal request to the Minister of Fisheries calling on her to increase the coastal fishing quota for this year by 4,000 tonnes. The coastal fishing season is intended to last from May until August, but so far this year 72% of the cod quota has already been caught. If additional quota is not added, this coastal fishing season could turn out to be the shortest ever, leaving some 726 fishermen out of work and impacting secondary jobs in harbours and fish processing.

Not enough quota for independent fishermen

Iceland’s current coastal fishing system was implemented 15 years ago with the aim to give smaller, independent fishermen a path into the industry. The number of boats with coastal quota grew from 663 last year to 726 this year, and the number of fishermen has increased steadily in recent years, likely due to a significant increase in fish prices. This year the cod quota set aside for coastal fishing is 10,000 tonnes, 5% of the total annual quota. For the number of coastal fishermen wanting to partake, that quota is not enough. Last year, the quota ran out in mid-July and based on current catch amounts, it could run out even earlier this season.

East Iceland disproportionately affected

When quota runs out early in the season, it affects Iceland’s regions disproportionately, as the cod arrives to the western regions earlier in the season before travelling north and east later in the summer. If the quota is finished before the fish complete their loop around the island, fishermen in East Iceland can miss out on the season entirely. The Association of Small Boat Owners pointed out that increasing the quota for this season would ensure equal distribution of quota between regions.

Cod stocks are in good shape

The latest figures on cod stocks from the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute show that the fish is in good shape, and the Association of Small Boat Owners assert that there is room to add up to 7,000 tonnes to the cod quota without negatively impacting fish stocks. The association also points out that it is unlikely for the largest companies on the market to reach the total allowable catch quota as there are summer vacations and closures ahead at the country’s largest fish processing plants.

Read more about coastal fishing in Iceland.