Responsible fisheries

Fisheries contribute greatly to prosperity in Iceland and account for more than one third (2008) of the national income from exported goods.  Careful treatment of the marine environment around Iceland is thus of utmost importance for the Icelandic economy.


The Icelandic fishing industry has long advocated sustainable harvesting of the fish stocks in Icelandic waters based on scientific advice and the careful treatment of living marine resources while adhering to strict standards for product quality and product handling.


Responsible fisheries

Icelanders manage their fisheries by deciding on a total allowable catch each year for each species, which is then allocated to vessels according to prearranged regulations.  The total allowable catch is based on scientific advice.


In August 2007, Iceland issued a Statement on Responsible Fisheries in Iceland. The statement was signed by the Minister of Fisheries, the Director of the Marine Research Institute, the Director of Fisheries and the Chairman of the Fisheries Association of Iceland. This has been followed up by the decision to identify Icelandic seafood

products, produced from catches in Icelandic waters, with a specific logo. The logo indicates product origin in Iceland from responsible fisheries.


Modern fishing industry

Icelandic fishing companies are world leaders in their field.  They employ a well educated and competent work force. By using advanced technology for fishing and processing the catch and employing a skilled work force, the freshness of the product is preserved and its quality and traceability is ensured. Icelandic fishing vessels produce seafood of the highest quality from fresh raw material harvested from the clean ocean around Iceland. This makes Icelandic seafood a wholesome, high-quality product in great demand on the major international markets.


The Icelandic fishing fleet

The Icelandic fishing fleet consists of vessels of diverse types and sizes.  These include multipurpose trawlers, freezer trawlers that process and freeze the catch at sea, fresh fish trawlers which bring the chilled catch to port, and purse seiners and trawlers that catch pelagic fish species such as herring and capelin. In addition, there are a large number of boats of various types and sizes using longlines, gillnets, danish seine, trawls or handlines.  Demersal species, such as cod, haddock, saithe, Greenland halibut, redfish and plaice, are mainly caught in trawls, on longlines, in gillnets or with Danish seine.  Pelagic species are caught in purse seine or pelagic trawls.  Oceanic redfish is caught in mid-water trawls, shrimp and nephrops are caught in bottom trawls.


The quota system

Icelanders manage their fisheries through a quota system. Its main objective is to ensure that the total catch is kept within set limits.  Secure fishing rights provide built-in incentives to secure a high yield from the fish stocks and maximize the indusry’s long-term profits.  Each fishing company thus seeks to handle its catch in such a way that its quality and value is preserved. Less emphasis is placed on catching the greatest amount possible in the shortest time.


In the early 1990s Icelandic fishing companies were allotted permanent shares in the catch from stocks subject to quota management as a fixed percentage of the annual total allowable catch of each species. This lead to greater stability in their operations and supported more reliable long-term planning.


Area closures and gear limitations

In addition to the determination of the total allowable catch and its allocation, fisheries around Iceland have for many years been managed by closures of large nursery areas, limitation of fishing on spawning grounds, restrictions on mesh size in fishing gear,  the use of sorting gear to allow small fish to escape, restrictions on what vessel and gear types are allowed on certain fishing grounds etc. In this way extensive areas around Iceland are closed all year or part of the year to fishing by vessels of a certain size or using particular types of fishing gear.


Secure right of self-determination

Icelanders are of the firm conviction that the management of marine living resources should be in the hands of those states that are closest to the resources and derive direct benefit from their responsible use. Iceland has emphasised that the discussion on conservation and use of marine resources should be approached on the basis of The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).  For the Icelandic economy it is essential that conservation and use go hand in hand.