As accusations of corruption are levelled at some of Iceland’s political figures this week and with the likelihood that the government will not survive the latest scandal, SFÚ, the Association of Fish Producers and Exporters, has also pointed to what it refers to as long-term corruption within the fishing industry.
SFÚ (Samtök Fiskframleiðenda og Útflytjenda) has been in existence for twenty years and has represented producers and exporters not connected with fishing companies, and as such has battled for what it calls a fair pricing regime for fish.
Chairman Jón Steinn Elíassson, who is also MD of processing company Toppfiskur, said that when fish auctions were established in the 1980s there were many hopes pinned to them, and the authorities at the time undoubtedly had no idea that by 2016, less than 20% of Iceland’s most valuable groundfish would pass through auctions.
‘They wouldn’t have expected that figure to be falling, but this is what has been happening in recent years’ he said. ‘The situation now is that fish auctions are used as a safety valve for the big fishing companies to offload what they do not feel they need for their own production.’
He asks how this situation has arisen and states that the answer is a simple one; corruption.
‘Politicians are part of the corruption and they seem to be bought up as soon as they are in power,’ he said, commenting that during the 2009-2013 government an opportunity was lost to make fundamental changes to the way fisheries management is run, in spite of efforts by sectors of the industry to prevent progress from being made. But Jón Steinn Elíasson said that instead of working towards change, the authorities chose to take part in the same corruption, and after that administration was voted out, the present government has fought tooth and claw to maintain the system.
‘The present minister of fisheries is the worst I have ever seen in many years in this industry,’ he said.
‘He has done nothing to address the huge differences that exist in competitive positions, in spite of clear promises before the last elections. In spite of the Monopolies Commission having asked questions about the pricing of fish and having also made direct proposals for solutions, he has not replied. The Parliamentary ombudsman has received many complaints about the Minister of Fisheries,’ said Jón Steinn Elíasson, commenting that the government is supporting corruption in the fishing industry in its determination to maintain the present situation.