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7. maí 2014 Atvinnuvega- og nýsköpunarráðuneytiðSigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, sjávarútvegs- og landbúnaðarráðherra 2013-2014

Ræða á fundi í Brussel um "Iceland´s approach to the fish resources in the Arctic", 7. maí 2014

ATH: Talað orð gildir

Sustainable Fishing in the Arctic, Seminar, 7th of May, Norway House, Rue Archimméde 17, Brussels

"Iceland´s approach to the fish resources in the Arctic"

It is a great pleasure to be here with you today and share some reflections on fisheries issues under the banner of „Sustainable Fishing in the Arctic“.

Fishing has for a long time been the backbone Iceland's economy.  Today the modern fisheries that we have developed are the foundation of the country's progress and economic growth. Even more so after our recent and rather intense affair with the global financial markets that ended  in –lets say a temporary setback.

Back to the title of my talk today and Iceland´s approach to the fish resources in the Arctic. In brief, the bottom line for the Icelandic  government  regarding fishing in general, including the Arctic,  is this:

Precautionary, Science and Ecosystem based harvesting strategies with effective enforcement  mechanisms, with access to key fishing information through the internet for verification of those processes.

That is how we see ourselves fulfill the demands of the international community for sustainable and responsible fisheries.

Let us not forget the history of global fisheries. For centuries, and even the bigger part of last century, there was a common belief  that  fishery resources were plentyful in the world´s oceans and that consequently there was little need for restraining fisheries with management measures.

When serious overfishing became apparent in many parts of the world we started to act. Global  agreements were negotiatied of which the UNCLOS is the most fundamental - that took over 25 years to negotiate.  Then came the the Fish Stocks Agreement and the Compliance Agreement, followed by  a long list (plethora) of other agreements and resolutions.

At the same time, more and more countries attempted to put in place effective fisheries managment systems to prevent overfishing. But most countries have chosen to restrain fishing by using input controls. That means limiting the size of fishing vessels , gears and engines, coupled with specified number of days when fishing is allowed. These methods, all over the world, have proved to be largely ineffective. We tried such methods for a while in Iceland, but when their ineffectiveness  became apparent they were replaced by a system of output controls, Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQ´s)  that have served the country well.  But no system is perfect and over time we  have had to make various adjustments and modifications to it as it has developed. But it is effective and working well.

Few, if any, food production systems are more international in nature than fisheries. Fish move around  in great quantities not respecting any of the boundaries that we humans have made.  The  international agreements I mentioned serve  to define the right of individual States to their share of the world´s fishery resources but with changing environmental conditions their shortcomings are coming  into a clearer light.

Iceland has been an active contributor to the policymaking on ocean affairs, ensuring the rights of coastal states to sustainable utilization of their living marine resources. These rights are of particular importance to the Arctic region as many of its communities base their existence and livelihoods on fisheries.

The Arctic is of course a very special region: Sensitive, less known to us than most other regions of the planet  and is now is opening up to the world.  The Arctic is really also very much about how  the Common Future of mankind is interlinked and how dependent we are on the actions of others.

I am not going to lecture you today on the changes occurring in the Arctic. We all know that there is  strong evidence that changes are taking place and our scientists are working hard to find out the nature and extent of these changes.  But no Icelandic minister of fisheries can talk about these issues without mentioning the Atlantic mackerel.  The changing pattern for this species is really testing all the declaractions regarding the ecosystem approach, responsible fisheries management, but perhaps most importantly international collaboration. As you all know  this fish has markedly changed its migration pattern towards northern waters in recent years giving rise to serious disputes.

This is not the place to dwell on the mackerel dispute, butmy point is this: We have made international agreements committing ourselves to resolve such disputes in a rational manner and based on science.

Many factors would have to be taken into consideration,  such as movement of the stocks, feeding behaviour, spawning grounds, history of  catches etc. Yet, we should acknowledge at the outset that there will always be a political element in the final decision. In my view, we the  politicians, should  be taking a leadership role in this process .   

In closing.

  • The  Arctic is percieved as one of the last frontiers of the planet´s unspoiled environment.  Therefore we have to be very cautious when deciding on the expolitation strategies.
  • The Icelandic Parliament has recently laid down Iceland´s policy on Arctic matters. Some of which are the following:
    • Iceland supports the Arctic Council as the main collaborative Forum in arctic matters,
    • Iceland wants to secure its position as an Arctic Costal State,
    • We want to gather support for the idea of the Arctic as part of the High North,
    • We want to  build on the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea for resolving disputes,
    • We particularly want to strengthen collaboration with the west nordic part of the Arctic i.e. between Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands,
    • We want to secure rights of indigenous peoples living  in the High North and preserve their unique culture and involve them in all decision making processes regarding the area.

As we all know food security is an issue that is rising fast on the geopolitical agenda. It is estimated that the world will need some 60-70% more food by the middle of this century. Global food security is increasingly seen as a world peace issue – an issue of human justice. The international law on which marine governance is based, in particular the  UN Convention of the Law of the Sea is clear about  the use of living marine resources for food.  It is unrealistic that the Arctic should be made a fully fledged sanctuary as some have suggested.

Let us not forget that the four  million people inhabiting the Arctic region have their normal aspirations towards economic progress that provides them with sustainable livelihoods for  themselves and their children to prosper and be a fully fledged partner in the world.

Thank you for your attention.



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