Iceland’s Ministry of Fisheries is preparing a Parliamentary Bill concerning changes to fisheries legislation, in particular relating to possibilities for fishing bluefin tuna within the country’s EEZ.
There was a short-lived fishery for bluefin in Icelandic waters in the 1990s and into the mid-2000s, with a number of Japanese longliners licensed to work in Iceland’s EEZ, and a number of Icelandic operators also looked carefully at the possibilities. Several vessels were built with facilities for longlining for bluefin, but this never came to anything and opportunities were not subsequently pursued.
According to the Ministry, Iceland has bluefin quotas allocated by ICCAT that are not currently exploited, and these fishing rights have significant value.
‘These rights are in demand and it is important that this fishery takes place, so that the Icelandic fleet does not lose them,’ the Ministry of Fisheries states.
There are a number of obstacles to reviving this fishery, not least that experience of fishing for bluefin tuna and the right equipment are not to be found in Iceland.
According to a Ministry representative, to encourage this fishery to develop and for Iceland to avoid losing its rights to fish for bluefin due to its zero catch track record, there is a need for a legislative framework that would allow Icelandic operators to lease properly equipped vessels from other countries, which in turn would make it possible to explore the economic basis of the fishery and to build up expertise locally, as well as maintaining a track record.
Minister of Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir is expected to put before Parliament a bill proposing changes to the strict legislation relating to the activities of foreign vessels in Icelandic waters and foreign ownership of fisheries ventures by allowing Icelandic companies to lease foreign vessels, specifically for this fishery and on a temporary basis only.