Coastal Fishermen Oppose Lumpfish Quotas


Coastal fishermen in Patreksfjörður, the Westfjords, oppose the introduction of quotas for lumpfish, RÚV reports. They say the current system can be improved without resorting to a quota system. Previous experience shows that quotas consolidate in the hands of few owners, the fishermen state.

Arguments for quota don’t hold water

Gunnar Ingvi Bjarnason stated that the current coastal fishing system is accessible to newcomers, with a licence costing just ISK 22,000 [$160, €147]. “If a quota system is set up, people will have to buy quota,” he stated. Einar Helgason of the coastal fishing association Krókur, based in Patreksfjörður, says that coastal fishermen are generally against quotas and that the arguments for setting a lumpfish quota are weak. According to Einar, lumpfish are not a species that is overfished, which is what quota systems are put in place to prevent.

Gunnar Ingvi adds that quota setting will not address the issue of bycatch, another concern expressed by authorities.

Read More: Taking Stock of Iceland’s Coastal Fishing Industry

The coastal fishing system was established 16 years ago with the goal of creating opportunities for smaller, independent fishers. It is not based around a quota system like open-sea fishing is in Iceland and has a relatively low cost of entry. Coastal fishing has a positive economic effect on many rural areas across Iceland.

Coastal Fishermen Disappointed, Angry with Minister’s Decision

Coastal fishermen are disappointed with the decision of the Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries not to increase this year’s cod quota. About 700 boats will likely be docked next week, with nearly two months left of the fishing season, RÚV reports.

Request denied

At the end of June, the National Association of Small Boat Owners formally requested that the Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries increase the coastal fishing quota by 4,000 tonnes of cod so that fishing could continue throughout the entirety of the season, which concludes at the end of August. (The coastal fishing season is four months.)

Örn Pálsson, the director of the association, told RÚV that the state of the cod stock was strong and that new measurements indicated that the total allowable catch could be significantly increased this year. “All fishermen agree that there has seldom been as much cod in the sea as there is this year,” Örn remarked.

Read More: Give a Man a Fish (The Coastal Fishing System)

Yesterday, Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir announced that there was no leeway to increase the coastal fishing quota. In a written response to the National Association of Small Boat Owners, the minister stated that the quota for the current fishing year had already been allocated, including the quota for coastal fishing, and that the ministry did not possess the legal authority to agree to the association’s request. In light of this, coastal fishermen will likely have to stop fishing by the middle of next week.

According to the law on coastal fishing, the Ministry must stop fishing when the total allowable catch for the season is reached.

Angry and disappointed

Patreksfjörður is the largest base for coastal fishing. In an interview with RÚV, Einar Helgason, the Chairman of Krókur, the association of small boat owners in Barðaströnd county, stated that fishermen in the area were “angry and disappointed.”

Einar maintained that the minister’s decision not to act to save the fishing season had come as a big shock: various ways had been suggested that would be able to increase the quota. Einar estimated that about 100 small boats set off for coastal fishing from the southern coast of the Westfjords. Given this, there was a lot at stake, with very few fishermen being able to turn to other kinds of fishing.

Expects fishermen to take action

Einar told RÚV that he expected coastal fishermen to take action and protest. “Yes, but I’m unwilling to go into the details. Unfortunately, in most people’s opinion, there is little that can be done to inspire a reaction from the minister. But we have to react.”

Einar added that he felt that Minister Svandís, and politicians, in general, had shown little support for coastal fishermen. “I’m just going to speak for myself: I have been very disappointed with the minister. She speaks as if she is our minister, the coastal-fishermen minister, which was how she described herself at the association’s annual meeting. But her actions reveal something entirely different.”

Deep North Episode 33: Give a Man a Fish

coastal fishing boat

It’s just after six in the morning and Guðmundur Geirdal is pouring his first cup of coffee. It’s spring, so the sun has already been up for a couple of hours but a light veiling of clouds means that there’s a fresh snap to the air. Down by the Arnarstapi harbour, the squeaky cries of the seabirds are loud enough to drown out the murmured chatting of the other fishermen preparing their boats for the day.

We take a look at the life of small-boat coastal fishermen in Iceland. Read the story here.

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.

Give a Man a Fish

It’s just after six in the morning and Guðmundur Geirdal is pouring his first cup of coffee. It’s spring, so the sun has already been up for a couple of hours but a light veiling of clouds means that there’s a fresh snap to the air. Down by the Arnarstapi harbour, the squeaky cries of the seabirds are loud enough to drown out the murmured chatting of the other fishermen preparing their boats for the day.

Continue reading

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.

Iceland Moves to Reduce Marine Bycatch in Light of New US Import Regulations

fishing regulations iceland

Icelandic regulators are making moves to conform to new regulations of seafood imports in the United States, according to the latest information from the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries.

In an effort to promote more sustainable fishing practices among exporting nations, the US has announced the introduction of new regulations which limit the acceptable amount of marine bycatch produced by fishing. Originally announced in 2016 with a 5-year grace period for nations to conform to the new regulations, the implementation has been delayed in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving Icelandic fisheries extra time to meet the new rules.

Especially important in the Icelandic context is the amount of seabirds and seals affected by lumpfish fishing, a fishery traditionally for small boat fishermen. Some Icelanders have expressed concerns that the new regulations will disproportionately affect small-scale rural fishermen, who are already suffering economically.

Read more: US Extends Deadline for Marine Mammal Bycatch Regulations

According to the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, Iceland has already launched measures in response to the new US regulations.

Increased monitoring is being implemented, using ship logs, drones, and geospatial modelling to better understand the distribution of bycatch.

In response to the poor state of the seal population in Iceland, the direct hunting of seals has been banned. It is now forbidden to shoot seals to scare them away from fish farms, for instance.

Other methods are also being investigated to reduce bycatch, such as the use of sound repellents on fishing gear.

By both increasing the monitoring of wild fishing stocks, and also increasingly monitoring registered bycatch, Icelandic authorities hope to gain a fuller picture of their success in implementing these changes.

Read more: Can Iceland Save its Seals Without Hurting its Fishermen?

Another concern is that the relatively higher bycatch of smaller fisheries, such as lumpfish, could adversely affect the status of larger, more lucrative fisheries, such as cod. According to the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, while it is certain that seafood from fisheries with bycatch in excess of US guidelines will be prevented from entering the market, there is as of yet no final word on how seafood from other fisheries will be handled. It is also as of yet unclear whether the steps taken by Icelandic authorities will be considered sufficient to meet the US conditions.

The US regulations, after a delay, are now slated to come into effect on January 1, 2024.



Regional Division of Coastal Fishing Quotas May Be Reinstated

Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Svandís Svavarsdóttir would like to make the coastal fishing system fairer, not least by reinstating a regional division of fishing quotas, RÚV reports.

According to the National Association of Small Boat Owners, 700 boats caught 11,000 tons of cod during Iceland’s costal fishing season this year, as well as 1,500 tons of coalfish (also called pollock), and 105 tons of other catch. On average, 656 kilos [1446 lbs] of cod were caught per fishing trip, which is a 6% increase over last year.

Fish prices have never been higher than they are this summer. The average price for cod is 23% higher than it was last year; coalfish is currently priced an astounding 85% higher than it was in 2021.

Nevertheless, the costal fishing season was short—only 46 days—and ended last Friday, about a month earlier than planned. This decision has been widely criticized with some saying that the sea is full of fish that may not be caught.

Not everyone getting their fair share

Minister of Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir says that the season ended “sooner than we would have liked,” and said the decision to end the season last week had to do with how much fish had been caught overall. But she recognizes that under the terms of the current system, coastal fishermen are not all on equal footing with one another. As such, it is her intention to reinstate the regional division of fishing quotas.

“That will make it more likely that everyone gets their cut,” she explained, “as opposed to when the entire country is defined as one region.” Under the current arrangement, some fishermen are able to catch their fair share, she continued, “especially in the north and east.”

Current system not a failure, but ‘far too complicated’

Under the current quota system, coastal fishing quotas make up 5% of the total catch. In the long term, Svandís says she’d like to see the coastal fishing quota make up a larger part of the overall quota. She was not, however, prepared to quote a particular figure at this time.

Asked if she considered the current fishing system a failure, Svandís said no, but she did concede that it’s a very complicated one. “It’s far too complicated; it can be simplified and clarified and I think that when we’re thinking about simplifying it and clarifying it, we also need to [give some thought to] making it more equitable.”

Proposed Re-Introduction of Coastal Fishing Zoning Comes Under Critique

fishing in Iceland

The National Association of Small Boat Owners has critiqued the resumption of zoning, reports RÚV.

The critique comes in light of the Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir’s recent decision to raise the cod quota for coastal fishermen. 

Although the decision has been praised as a victory for small fishermen and rural communities, many fear it is not enough. Additionally, Svandís has announced her intention to introduce legislation this Fall that would reinstate the zoning system.

Under the current system, the coastal fishing quota is spread across the entire country. Because of the seasonal migrations of coastal fish stocks, fishermen in certain parts of Iceland can begin fishing earlier, leaving less valuable fish for other communities. The Northeast of Iceland has been especially affected, with some fishermen even having to change residence to have access to the more valuable fishing grounds.

The regional zoning system was originally in effect from 2009 to 2017. Örn Pálsson, president of the National Association of Small Boat Owners, says that the current system, which guarantees 12 days of fishing for every boat, has proven to be safer. In his opinion, Svandís’ proposed legislation would represent a step backwards.

Svandís, however, has stated that the current quota system has failed to help precisely those whom it was meant to serve: small fishermen and rural communities.

Coastal Fishing Quota Raised 1,074 Tonnes

Iceland fishing quota reform

Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, has raised the coastal fishing quota for cod by 1,074 tonnes in a recent government announcement. Coastal fishing allowances were first introduced fourteen years ago to aid independent fishermen, most of whom live outside the capital area.

The new, enlarged coastal fishing quota now represents some 5% of Iceland’s overall cod catch, the highest ever allotment of cod for coastal fisheries. For the past few seasons, the catch quotas have been fulfilled long before the end of the season and small boat owners have called for an increase in allotments.

The increased share of cod was won in exchange for 874 tonnes of mackerel, 50 tonnes of recreational fishing, and 150 tonnes of longline fishing concession, a special category within the quota system which incentivizes the use of longline fishing over trawling and net fishing.

Svandís recently criticized the current coastal fishing quota system in an editorial in Morgunblaðið. While the past fourteen years have shown the benefits of the system, including increased financial stability for rural fishing communities, improved recruitment to the profession, and a higher-quality product, Svandís emphasized the reliance of many families and rural communities on coastal fishing and how the current system has worked against precisely the communities it was intended to serve. Stating that many fishermen had already pointed out the dangers of the regional quota system in 2019, she claims that the time for this experiment is over.

According to Svandís, the current system has incentivized fishermen to move out of poorer fisheries, and this migration has caused the fishing season to end early too many times.

The increased pot for coastal fishermen is seen as a victory for families and rural communities. In a statement to Morgunblaðið, Örn Pálsson, president of the National Association of Small Boat Owners, said that he welcomed the reform but that even these increased numbers may not suffice for the season if catches continue at their current level.