Fishing vessels of the United Kingdom. (Photo: SFF)
UK should follow Iceland's fisheries approach, expert suggests
Monday, July 10, 2017, 23:40 (GMT + 9)
Amid Brexit negotiations, an Icelandic expert recommended the United Kingdom should follow the example of Iceland and Norway when it comes to managing fisheries.
Expert Hjörtur J. Guðmundsson bases his analysis on his country’s experiences right back to the Cod Wars of the 1970s and stresses that UK’s northern neighbours have been far more successful than the EU at conserving stocks and sustaining coastal communities.
“What Britain can learn from the experience of Iceland and Norway in short is the importance of having full authority over the fishing sector, the importance of sustainable and responsible management and of keeping the domestic fishing grounds as a general rule for local fishermen for the benefit of the whole country,” Guðmundsson stressed.
The Icelandic expert points out that as a sovereign country, the UK will have an absolute and undisputed right to a 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or the median line under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“No traditional fishing rights, real or purported, of other countries can override that, otherwise no country would ever risk allowing fishing vessels from other countries to fish in its waters,” Guðmundsson claims in a paper titled Fishing for Freedom: Lessons for Britain from Iceland’s fisheries experience.
The expert also stated that the EU and its member states have no legal arguments for demands to continue fishing in British waters as before, adding they are very well aware of that.
Guðmundsson explains that the British people both have strong conservation arguments on their side, like Iceland during the Cod Wars in the latter half of the 20th century, due to the failures of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) but also the sovereign right to a 200-mile EEZ which is today guaranteed by international law.
“Leaving the EU offers the British government a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fundamentally rethink the way British fisheries are managed, with a long-term view of how the sector may prosper in the future, taking note of the best practices of other countries and ensuring sustainability and the creation of valuable British jobs,” he says.
In this regard, Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said that these were exactly the arguments they made to the governments, and praised the validation of the experience of those fisheries nations outside the EU and its disastrous CFP.
“Iceland and Norway have different but successful fisheries management regimes and a much better record for sustainability – that is what we must insist upon for our indigenous industry,” Armstrong stresses.
Guðmundsson also suggests that the UK may have become too dependent upon the EU market for fish exports, and should seek to widen its access to “diverse markets all over the world”.