Icelandic President criticises Common Fisheries Policy

President of Iceland critics Common Fisheries Policy

On the 15th of September the President of Iceland was talking on CNN’s world business programme and while he was ostensibly on to discuss the situation today as a result of the collapse of the Icelandic banking system, he ended up commenting on the European Union common fisheries policy.

The question was put as to what was the fallout between Iceland and the Dutch and UK government over the millions in deposits which have yet to be repaid to British and Dutch citizens as a result of the crash, would impact Iceland’s application to join the European Union.

The President’s reply was very clear, it was the fishery negotiations that were proving to be the problem. He highlighted the difficulties being experienced by the fishing industry in the European Union as a result of low prices, falling fish stocks and high costs.

By comparison he outlined that the Icelandic model had produced a sustainable and profitable fishing industry.

In Iceland the directorate of fisheries has responsibility for the fishery segment. It is very interesting to see that on their website they have total quotas assigned for the year, fish caught, unused fish and overfished all by species.

It is also possible to insert the name of a particular fishing vessel to bring up details of the quotas and catches of that vessel.

The system in Iceland operates on the basis of fishing permits, individual transferable quotas (ITQ System) regulation types and configure fishing gear and fishing ground closures.

The total allowable catch for each vessel, for most of the species, is issued free to fishing year, the period being from 1 September to 31 August the following year.

Transfer of quotas

Individual votes can transfer quota shares between the boats although that is capped at up to 50% of the annual catch quota in a given year.

Individual transfer quota system

In any given year, an individual vessel can transfer up to 20% of that vessels catch quota to the following fishing year. Any fishing year a vessel has a general tolerance to land up to 5% in excess of quota for the fishing year.


Ever since the early 1990’s the Icelandic fishing industry has been profitable. The general rate of profitability has been 5% of revenues.

This is very much in stark contrast with what the European experience has been.

What is notable about these comments is that whilst Iceland has had its share of Banking woes, as has Ireland, it at least is seeking to promote a long terms viable Fishing Industry.

Iceland has also not been constrained by traditional logic of controlling all aspects. By allowing Fishermen the freedom to plan and organise their business, the industry (and the Country) have benefited. It would be uplifting to think that our own Department could realise the benefits of allowing Fishermen who know their business to be trusted.

Dermot Conway
contact Dermot at 0214901000 or