Amidst the skyrocketing figures of overfishing and the declination of many species of fish, countries have begun to persistently emphasize policies and regulations to combat threats against the biodiversity. Overfishing is a precarious manmade threat that not only affects the balance in our biodiversity, but also the economy for countless countries which depend on commercial fishing. An average person consumes 20kg of fish annually, leading to an alarming decrease of 39% of marine species throughout the past 40 years. Despite having a relatively dependent economy on commercial fishing, Iceland has been leading the sustainable fishing industry by implementing policies, resulting in nothing but continuous positive results.
In 1901, after experiencing depletion in their fish stocks due to over-fishing, Iceland inaugurated several policies in hopes of sustaining their economy. A sea limit of 4.8 kilometres was established and subsequently, after 75 years it expanded to 322 kilometres, aiming to protect the diminishing fishing stock, specifically cod and haddock.
Once this zone was enforced, a quota system was administered in 1995, regulating the amount of fish each fisherman could catch. This system required scientists to biannually set quotas after testing the biomass, enabling them to close fishing grounds in the event that there was a plausible cause of concern or alarm. Dumping was banned, so in the scenario where fishermen exceeded the quota, they were required to buy quotas from others to stay within the law. The system also restricted a single company to have control over 12% of any particular fish species’ total export value.
Evidently, this system was successful subsequent to the consistent support of the Icelandic government, fisheries’ owners and fishermen. As a result, they currently process 1.5 million tonnes of fish without experiencing risks of overfishing.
As expected, these policies are viewed by some disapprovingly, particularly the EU. As the EU has long called on Iceland to reduce their catches and abide by their fishing policies, it ultimately caused Iceland to drop their pending application to the EU in 2015.