Honourable Ministers distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to start by thanking our hosts in Chile for inviting to this important conference building on an initiative launched a year ago in Washington. It is a real pleasure to be in this beautiful place to focus on the oceans, both the opportunities and the challenges we are facing.
Protection and sustainable use of the the ocean has received greater attention in recent years. Iceland particularly notes that the oceans have received special emphasis in the recently approved Sustainable Development Goals. Giving the oceans a stand-alone goal was an important step.
The oceans are essential for global sustainable development. In Iceland, we had to put this into practice decades ago - as we rely on fisheries for our livelihood.
The transition of the Icelandic economy in the 20th century into a modern welfare society can largely be contributed to developments in the fisheries sector.
We have not always been successful in sustainable use of our resources, we have made mistakes, but were willing to learn from them and make necessary changes. The most fundamental management change took place around 30 years ago laying the ground for a sustainable fisheries management system.
Each fishing vessel was allocated an individual quota, a percentage of the total allowable catch, based on catch history. The size of the total allowable catches – the TAC - is decided each year on the basis of a purely scientific advice from the Marine Research Institute. This leaves no room for political speculations.
At the time the new system was controversial, but today we have a sensible, functioning and sustainable framework.
To put this in numbers: In the year 1981 the total catch of cod in Icelandic waters was 460 thousand tons. In 2013 it was down to 236 thousand tons, but the export value more than doubled in real terms.
This system has also proven positive for the environment, with fever ships, and lower emission.
Today, fisheries in Iceland are efficient and highly profitable,
but not least sustainable - as the fish stocks are in a healthy condition.
This summer it became clear that our most valuable fish resource, the cod stock, is now biologically stronger than it has been for half a century.
Did we - back then - know the outcome for sure in advance?
Honestly! - Not entirely.
But we tried to come up with a reasonable system that worked. And so it did.
Since then, the key words associated to fishing in Iceland are: SCIENSE-BASED AND SUSTAINABLE.
But the system does not run itself!!
We have efficient enforcement of compliance and transparent regulations. Inspectors board fishing vessels regularly and all catches are thoroughly recorded at landing.
The Directorate of Fisheries and the Coast Guard keep a watchful eye and offenders are caught and sanctioned. In additon, the Icelandic fishing sector does not receive any distortive subsidies.
In an EEZ that spans 760 thousand square kilometers - there are around 30 Marine Protected Areas. While some grounds are closed during the spawning season, others are permanently off limits and The Marine Research Institute can instantly close any area of concern.
With sustainable use of the oceans Icelanders have been able to secure their countries' food security for centuries.
Ladies and gentlemen
The global community has committed itself to end hunger in the world. This will depend on how successful we are in utilizing resources in a sustainable way. If we want the oceans to be an essential part of this commitment, science based sustainable harvesting of marine resources must become a universal practice.
In Iceland, the saying has been: „teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.
NOW WE MIGHT ADD: TEACH A MAN TO FISH SUSTAINABLY –and you also feed generations to come.
Although Iceland has only 330 thousand inhabitants – we need all hands on deck to secure the healthy future of the oceans – large and small.
Iceland has for almost two decades contributed to capacity-building in fisheries management in developing countries. We have done so through the UN Fisheries Training Program in Iceland. Around 300 experts from 50 countries have graduated and over 1.000 specialists have participated in shorter programs.
I am pleased to announce our commitment for an additional contribution to the Fisheries Taining Program – with a special focus on Small Island Developing States.
We have come a long way in our understanding of the challenges related to sustainable conserve and manage the oceans for current and future generations. However, understanding the vast oceans can be compared with sailing towards the horizon, the distance stays the same and more miles are still to be covered. We have charts to guide us on this journey. It is important to base our practice firmly on frameworks as established by the United Nations: the Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Fish Stocks Agreement.
Sustainable management must start on a local level – extend to a regional level and in the end we must all be accountable
It is important to use all tools available, not least Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and the FAO.
One of the big challenges that we need to address on a global scale is IUU fisheries. The FAO Agreement on Port State Measures is one of the instruments to tackle this serious problem
Iceland is pleased to confirm its ratification of the FAO Agreement on Ports State Measures and strongly encourage other countries to do the same and thus show their commitment to ending IUU fishing.
Climate change is one of the greatest threats to the ocean today. Increase of temperature and ocean acidification will put the entire marine ecosystem at risk. The only way to turn this around is by cutting greenhouse gas emission. And Iceland aims to take part in collective delivery with the European Union and Norway of 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emission by 2030.
Finally, -an integrated approach and increased cooperation will be of fundamental importance to meet the challenges in front of us. “Our Oceans” is an important opportunity to share practices, and to discuss ways forward. Iceland remains committed to be a leading advocate for the oceans.
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