The sale of a substantial amount of quota to HB Grandi recently has re-ignited the debate in Iceland over whether or local authorities should have the right to step in when quota is sold from one district to another.
Hafnarnes Ver in Thorlákshöfn sold quota that is expected to go from the south coast port to be fished by HB Grandi’s vessels for its Vopnafjörður factory in the north-east of Iceland. This represents a boost for Vopnafjörður and a blow for Thorlákshöfn, and the association of local authorities of fishing-dependent districts (Samtök sjávarútvegssveitarfélaga) has raised the question of whether or not local authorities should hold pre-emptive rights, allowing them to step in an buy those fishing rights.
Commenting in newspaper Vísir, chairman Róbert Ragnarsson said that current legislation provides local authorities little protection when fishing rights are sold out of the community, commenting that this debate arose some years ago in the Westmann Islands and that this is a critical issue for Thorlákshöfn.
MP Jón Gunnarsson, who also chairs the Parliamentary Industrial Affairs Committee, commented in a recent interview that there is a clear need for change in Iceland’s fisheries management regime, adding that one of the system’s weaknesses is that local authorities do not have this right to some kind of pre-emptive purchasing power that would keep fishing rights in a particular district.
‘We are talking about almost a third of Thorlákshöfn’s quotas being sold out of the region, in addition to other business that has gone on in the past. This is hugely important for Thorlákshöfn,’ Róbert Ragnarsson was quoted as saying, adding that an interesting option would be for fishing rights to be assigned to processors rather than vessels.