Minister’s 30-Point Plan for Fisheries Stirs Controversy

Svandís Svavarsdóttir

The Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries has unveiled a comprehensive report proposing thirty key legislative changes for Iceland’s fishing industry. The report has met with criticism from industry stakeholders, Vísir reports.

Analysing challenges and opportunities

Last year, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, the Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, appointed working groups to analyse challenges and opportunities in the fishing industry. The report aimed to foster greater public harmony regarding the use of the resource. The upshot is a report entitled Our Natural Resource (Auðlindin okkar), which was unveiled yesterday.

The report puts forth thirty key legislative proposals that touch on environmental, social, and economic aspects of the fishing industry. Some notable recommendations include the maintenance of the quota system, the introduction of a resource clause to the constitution, simplification of fishing quota fees, and ensuring that maximum ownership of fishing companies aligns with competition law. The report also suggests bolstering transparency, tightening penalties for discards, and advocating more decentralised ownership in shipping companies, Vísir reports.

Increases fishing quota fees

Minister Svavarsdóttir announced that the report will serve as the foundation for a new bill focusing on the use and management of fishing resources. A special emphasis will be placed on the environment.

“Our primary focus is on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and catalysing the transition to green energy within the fishing industry. Second, we aim to enhance transparency, making it clear who owns and manages these fishing companies. Financially speaking, I plan to propose an increase in fishing quota fees, aligning them with our broader fiscal policy. Additionally, I suggest experimenting with an auction-based approach for certain quotas beyond the general regional catch quota. On the social front, I advocate for an overhaul of existing systems. And lastly, this initiative proposes the inclusion of a resource provision in the constitution,” Svandís stated.

Dissatisfaction with increase

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, Heiðrún Lind Marteinsdóttir, CEO of Fisheries Iceland, expressed her discontent, stating the minister’s proposals didn’t align with the initial objectives of the working groups.

“Firstly, the advisory committees’ initial work made no mention of raising fishing quota fees or auctioning off quotas. Yet, these seem to be the main points the minister is emphasising while introducing new bills in Parliament. I find this focus rather strange,” Heiðrún commented.

Not much good, a lot of bad – and a lot that’s even worse

Örvar Marteinsson, Chair of SSU (the Association of Small Fishing Companies), was even more scathing in his assessment.

“I think it almost constitutes an attack; there’s not much good, a lot of bad – and a lot that’s even worse. Companies that register on the market will be given preferential treatment, which will only be the very largest, and this will harm the family businesses in rural Iceland once again, which are constantly being forgotten,” Örvar remarked.

Minister of Justice: Iceland Not Exempt from Russian Espionage

Dómsmálaráðherra Ríkisstjórn Alþingi Jón Gunarsson

The Minister of Justice says there is “no reason to believe that the Russians, and other dictatorial nations, are not engaged in espionage in Iceland, as elsewhere,” RÚV reports. The minister’s bill on the increased powers of the police has been submitted to Parliament, although there seems to be little interest in the establishment of an Icelandic intelligence service.

No basis yet for the establishment of an Icelandic intelligence service

Yesterday, Runólfur Þórhallsson, Deputy Superintendent of the National Commissioner’s Analytical Department, stated that it was “very likely that Russia and other dictatorial countries are conducting illegal intelligence gathering here in Iceland – as elsewhere.”

Runólfur observed that the Nordic countries had established special security services to investigate and work against illegal information gathering and to carry out supervision; in order to conduct such supervision in Iceland, a similar service needed to be established.

Addressing the subject in an interview with RÚV, Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson stated that there was no reason to believe that Iceland was exempt from foreign espionage:

“There’s no reason to believe that we aren’t on the same boat as the Nordic countries in this regard, or when it comes to organised crime in general, for espionage is nothing more than an aspect of organised crime. On the other hand, however, there has, perhaps, not been a sound basis for establishing an intelligence service in Iceland akin to those of our neighbouring countries. This is why we’ve now been bolstering that arm of the police that deals with organised crime, and, thus, these matters being discussed, as best we can,” Jón Gunnarsson stated.

Childish to think that Iceland is exempt

Jón also stated that his bill on the increased powers of the police is being reviewed by Parliament. Current legal powers severely limit the police’s ability to counter espionage.

“This bill of mine has been somewhat controversial to some people, but it has progressed very modestly and is nothing close to what is customary with the intelligence services of our neighbouring countries. But, of course, it is just childish to think that we’re somehow exempt. We need to equip our police in such a way that they can at least work in full confidence and with the necessary authorisation required to collaborate with these neighbouring countries so as to inform them of these cases, and others, related to organised crime.”

When asked if he thought it was simply “a matter of time” that an intelligence service was established in Iceland, Jón remarked that we would “have to see how things developed.” Iceland relied on its allied nations, with whom it collaborated in matters of defence and within the political field – given that intelligent services in these nations were afforded a much greater authority than the police in Iceland.

Scant understanding for critical voices

“I’d like to reiterate that it is necessary for us to come to terms with the changes that have taken place around us in recent years. We must respond to these changes. The first step is to strengthen the police in this regard, that is, to afford our police the opportunity to be able to fully collaborate with the police of other countries.”

As RÚV notes, this is why Jón has a “scant understanding of the critical voices that have been heard regarding his bill.” In his opinion, it is crucial that these questions are dealt with in the spring. He added that his bill was meant to protect the security of the state and that espionage falls under that category.