The Icelandic Fisheries Management System

Fish has been an important source of food for humanity a long time ago and during the last century, increased knowledge shows that properly managed and responsible fisheries are vital so as to sustain and renew these gifts of nature.

Iceland takes a leading role in fisheries management as the country focuses on the sustainable use of the fish stocks and good treatment of the marine ecosystems. The fishery system in the country has been developed in accordance with international law and the United Nation Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) code of conducts for responsible fisheries.

Responsible Fisheries

The code of conduct that is put in place by Iceland helps the people to consider the environment so as to see the big picture according to Former Director of FAO, Fisheries Mr. Grimur Valdimarsson. He then added that the code helps to achieve sustainable and responsible fisheries around the world and that the code is not a regulatory framework which imposes obligations on the countries but acts to serve as a guideline for the best practice.

The foundation of the management in Iceland is the scientific research as the decision of the total allowable catch is based on stock assessment and data from the marine research institute. According to Johann Sigurjonsson, to manage fisheries successfully in a responsible manner, there is a need for reliable information on the conditions of the fish stocks at all time. He then added that this is achieved by collecting a lot of samples and data all year round.

Catch Allowances

The marine research institute sends out its research vessels to collect data on stock sizes and the marine environment and this project is ongoing since 1985. The bottom trawl is used for sampling 600 locations around the shores and the species that are caught will then be measured using the morphometric and meristic system so as to determine the size and productivity of the fish stock and the ecosystem.

The information is submitted to and evaluated by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). This collaboration ensures that the research institute works in conformity with the international standard. The marine research institute then recommends the total allowable catch to the fishery authorities as they apply precautionary considerations that mean harvest rate is kept low and overfishing is avoided.

Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ)

The Ministry of Fisheries will then decide the total allowable catch to the quote a year and this starts on the 1st of September each year. All the fishing vessel in Iceland must be licensed before they can fish and after the total allowable catch has been decided, the Directorate of Fisheries will then allocate a quota to each species to these vessels in accordance with the total allowable catch of that species.

Icelandic fishing is mixed and each vessel must have a quota of all the species to be caught on the fishing trip and if a vessel catches fish of other fishing in excess of it a fishing permit. The fishing company is then required to obtain additional quota within three days of landing the quota. This is made possible by the fishing surveillance that is performed both aboard the fishing vessels and also when the vessels landed.

The catch is then registered by the harbour authorities in the central database of the Directorate of Fisheries. Area closures are also used for managing the fishes and they can be enforced for a longer period of time. This may apply to specific fishing gear, vessel size for old fishing and temporary closure of area are enforced so as to protect the spawning ground of cod and other demersal species. During the temporary closure, the announcement will be made on state radio to pass across the message.

Results Based Management

In conclusion, Iceland has been in the forefront of developing fisheries management system with the emphasis on economic and sustainable use of renewable resources by taking full responsibility in managing the fishing zone. Iceland intends to stay at the forefront of responsible treatment of marine resources for the benefits of the future generation.

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