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.