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The Icelandic cod population at historic highs: Quota to be increased

By Magnús Sveinn Helgason

  • SEAS FULL OF COD The breeding population of cod is at a record high, thanks to an emphasis on sustainability and responsibility, according to the Minister of Fisheries. Photo/GVA 

The total allowable catch for cod will be increased by 10% and that of haddock by 20% in 2015/16, according to recommendations by The Icelandic Marine Research Institute. The total allowable catch has been doubled since 2008.

The increase is justified by the fact that the breeding population of Icelandic cod is at a historical high. According to the Icelandic Marine Research Institute the breeding population is larger today than it has been at any time since 1962.

An emphasis on sustainability and responsibility
In an interview with local TV station Stöð 2, the director of the Marine Research Institute argues the increase is due to the responsible management of Icelandic fish stocks through the quota system.

Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, the minister of fisheries similarly credits the quota system:

“We have been strengthening our fish stocks, which is different to what has been happening in many other places, and it is this emphasis on sustainable and responsible management which we have been practicing which is now bearing fruit, and that is of course a cause for celebration."

Recommendations of marine biologists have been heeded
The Icelandic cod population plummeted in the post war years, like many other commercial fish stocks in the Atlantic, as fishing increased with larger and more powerful vessels. In 1984 Iceland introduced a system of total allowable catch quotas, which were later made transferrable. Although the system has remained controversial, due to the fact that the quota has been concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, it ha been successful in reducing fishing and strengthening the fish stocks.

While total quotas frequently exceeded the recommendations of marine biologists in the first years of the quota system, the recommendations of the Marine Research Institute have been taken more seriously in the more recent past. For the past eight years the Institute has issued particularly cautious recommendations in the hope of strengthening the breeding population of cod.

A major windfall for the fisheries industry
The federation of Icelandic fisheries firms, Fisheries Iceland, estimates that the increase in catch will yield a 16 billion ISK (120 million USD/110 million EUR) in export revenues.

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