Icelandic fishing company playing towns off against each other?

People’s interest was piqued in the north-western Icelandic town of Isafjordur this morning when one of its biggest and best-known fishing trawlers unloaded its catch in neighbouring Bolungarvik following a decision by Isafjordur town that the fishing company opposed.

The ship, Pall Palsson (IS 102), is owned and operated by Hradfrystihusid Gunnvor (also known as HG); which is the Westfjords region’s biggest company.

When the ship failed to turn up at Isafjordur harbour this morning, instead offloading in Bolungarvik, rumours quickly started that the company was trying to punish the Isafjardarbaer municipality for throwing its support behind a proposal from 17 mayors around Iceland encouraging the government to go the so-called contract route in fisheries management. The proposed change could reasonably be described as a negative change for the biggest fishing companies but a positive change for those who want greater public control of fisheries.

When contacted by DV, Einar Valur Kristjansson, HG CEO, said that the change of landing port has a perfectly reasonable explanation and that it is absurd to think the company is in any way making a political point or attempting to punish Isafjardarbaer.

“We have landed in Flateyri and other places. There is now a tunnel between the towns and we have looked at it as part of our operating area. There is no special reason behind it. The ship is going out again after and it is an hour less travel to land there than in Isafjordur. That is why there is nothing [political] behind it,” Kristjansson said.

According to Skutull.is, Pall Palsson was booked to land in Isafjordur this morning but cancelled at short notice. The news site also points out that landing fees and harbour duties are higher in Bolungarvik. If the change of ports becomes a regular occurrence, Isafjordur port stands to miss out on millions of kronur. Bolungarvik stands to win, on the other hand.

Photo: Alëx Elliott

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