New Icelandic fishing bill ready for parliamentary debate

Both of Iceland’s ruling coalition parties voted to pass the government’s new fisheries bill at their meetings yesterday. The bill will therefore be put to Alþingi for debate later this week.

Prime Minister (and Social Democrat leader) Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture (and Minister of Economic Affairs and leader of the Left Green Movement) Steingrímur J. Sigfússon introduced the bill at a press conference.

Steingrímur had to apologise at the meeting and say he hoped everybody could hear him; as he had chosen an inconvenient time to lose his voice.

“This is one of the government’s most important issues,” the Prime Minister told reporters, and the fisheries minister added that he feels increased levies proposed are perfectly reasonable.

Jóhanna said that the bill represents a systematic change to the fisheries industry and that it builds on equality, workplace freedom and innovation. “What is important is that the proceeds go much more to the nation than has been the case,” she said — pointing to increased fishing charges and limits to quota subleasing as examples.

The bill will increase state takings from the fishing industry, which will go into economic development, transportation, and research and development funding. Jóhanna said she also hopes the bill will end debate about fisheries management if it comes into law, RÚV reports.

Steingrímur J. Sigfússon said that the bill tries to reinforce clearly the fact that resources are communal to all the Icelandic people and that the state allocates them.

Utlilisation agreements would be replaced with utilisation licences, to underline that fishing companies do not own the fish stocks – and the new fishing charges would be twofold: a basic charge that everyone pays, and a second charge based on takings. Such a system would ensure the nation benefits from the good times, but that the fishing companies have less to pay in the bad times, Steingrímur explained.