Iceland fishing debate continues

The controversial changes to Iceland’s fishing quota system, currently being debated by the country’s parliament (Althingi), continue to cause heated argument.

The Althingi Fisheries and Agriculture Committee has decided to request that the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture compile a report into the actual impacts of the present-day quota system since 1991.

The opposition party members of the committee called for a meeting today following the release of an economists’ report into the proposed changes claiming that the economic impacts could be severe. The bills’ supporters claim, however, that the nation’s fishing and fish stocks must be looked at from all angles; not just economics. It was agreed to ask the ministry to investigate the social and economic pros and cons of the current system.

Meanwhile, a new report from the OECD economic and development agency warns the Icelandic government against experimenting with the quota system; claiming that there is very little that can actually be done to improve parts of the system people feel to be the least fair.

The same report on Iceland, released today, predicts three percent economic growth for Iceland amid growing consumer demand and lowering unemployment.

The OECD authors claim that Iceland has been unusually successful in sustainably exploiting its fish stocks due to the current quota system. While they acknowledge that it is unfair in many ways, the fact that most big operators have purchased their quota means that the government can do little to take it back. They suggest a hike in resource exploitation levies as the best way for the national coffers to net more fish money.

They also recommend that the Icelandic government issue lower quotas than the Marine Research Institute suggests in order to maximise demand and increase market fish prices, RUV reported.

Ironically, all this comes on the same day that Marine Research Institute biologist Jon Kristjansson published his own report claiming that evidence suggests it is not possible to increase the size of the cod stock by catching fewer cod. He even suggests it more likely that increasing catches will cause the stock to grow.

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