Amendment Not Sufficient to Encourage Tuna Fishing

Efforts to encourage Icelandic fisheries to make use of Atlantic bluefin tuna catch quotas allotted to Iceland have yet to prove fruitful. While tuna goes for high prices, specialised ships are necessary to make tuna fishing profitable. Chartering foreign boats to develop tuna fishing experience within the Icelandic fishing industry would require authorisation from the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, Fiskifréttir reports.

Last summer, Parliament passed a provisionary article allowing Icelandic fisheries to charter foreign ships to fish for bluefin tuna. While now permissible by Icelandic laws, fishing Iceland’s quota with foreign ships is in conflict with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas’s resolutions and the amendment is therefore meaningless unless ICCAT makes revisions to their regulations.

“The change was necessary but not sufficient to clear the way for tuna fishing with foreign chartered ships,” the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries stated to Fiskifréttir. “ICCAT statutes state that such chartering is prohibited. Therefore, ICCAT’s statutes would have to be altered for such chartering to take place, even if Icelandic legislation has nothing standing in its way.” According to the ministry, the change to legislation was made at the request of Fisheries Iceland.

The Ministry also noted that if no suitable application from an Icelandic ship reaches the Directorate of Fisheries by June 1, the Ministry will look into selling a part of Iceland’s permissible catch quota to cooperating states within ICCAT under ICCAT regulations.

Since Iceland joined ICCAT in 2002, it’s been issued 1292 tonnes of quota, but only 80-90 tonnes of this valuable fish have been caught in that time, and that’s including both direct fishing and tuna bycatch. While the tuna has been intermittently caught by Iceland’s shores, in order for tuna fishing to become profitable, fisheries would need to invest in specially equipped freezer trawlers capable of freezing the tuna at much lower temperatures than current ships allow.

If Iceland continues not to use its tuna catch quota, other nations or interested parties might well make a claim to it, such as Norway or the European Union, as tuna quota is in high demand. The hope is that if an Icelandic party can charter foreign tuna boats, they might establish the know-how and experience of this highly-specialised type of fishing, which could eventually lead to Icelandic fisheries investing in tuna fishing ships.