Iceland halibut stock in trouble

Icelandic halibut made international headlines last year as a group of German fishermen caught a record breaker. In fact, it is because of the monster flatfish that foreign tourists flock to the country to try their luck. Now experts are calling for a fishing ban, saying the stock is too small.

The state of the halibut stock around Iceland is very poor and research into it insufficient — according to a report commissioned by Jon Bjarnason, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture.

The minister appointed a committee to look at the important fish, including people from the ministry, the Directorate of Fisheries and the Marine Research Institute. Among the findings of the group are that there is no formal quota for halibut and that the majority of fish landed come as by-catch. “In addition to this, direct line fishing is practised for halibut with so-called hawk lines; and this sort of fishing has been expanding in recent years,” the report states.

The Marine Research Institute has been calling for a ban on direct halibut fishing for a decade and the report says this is one of several options that will be taken into careful consideration, Visir.is reports. The final decision rests with the Minister of Fisheries.

While the majority of commercially caught halibut is actually by-catch, the species has become a popular target for recreational fishermen (especially from Germany) in recent years; many hoping to catch a real giant. Such fishing trips provide a very lucrative income for several struggling small towns in the Westfjords region.

Photo: Vikari.is

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