Iceland's Marine Institute launches major cod debate today –

Iceland’s Marine Institute launches major cod debate today Published:  25 January, 2008

ICELAND’S Marine Research Institute, which came under fire over its controversial fishing quota proposals last year, is opening a major symposium today on the state of the nation’s cod stocks.

The two day symposium in Reykjavik – one of the largest of its kind in Europe for many years – is intended to reflect the current state of knowledge on the biology and stock dynamics of cod in Icelandic waters.

More than 20 leading lectures will be given on different aspects of Icelandic cod stocks – a fishery which feeds into most of Europe’s top fish processors – led by the Canadian fisheries biologist Ghislain A. Chouinard, who will give a keynote lecture on his own country’s experiences – the decline and lack of recovery of Atlantic cod around Canada.

The speakers will also give their views on spawning trends, the interaction between cod and other species, and the impact of different fishing methods and environmental factors. The presentations will be either in Icelandic or English, with oral translation provided at the symposium.

Last summer, and on the recommendation of the Marine Research Institute, the Icelandic Government dramatically cut its annual cod catch by 60,000 tonnes, a move which has so far cost at least 300 jobs and led to the closure or run down of many fish processing factories at small ports around the country. The decision has certainly caused consternation in northerly fishing centres like Akureyri and pushed up the price of cod (and haddock) in the UK and Europe generally.

It is hoped that the symposium will give some indication of the current state of cod stocks and whether some of the quota cuts could be restored this summer. Iceland’s catch year runs from September to the end of August.

Meanwhile, the job casualties continue. The fish processing company Vísir, which has its headquarters in Grimndavil, has decided to close its plants in Husavik in north Iceland, and Thingeyri in the West Fjords, for five months beginning next summer. Nearly 90 people are likely to be affected.

The chairman of the Labour Union of the West Fjords Finnbogi Sveinbjörnsson criticised the move, saying that closing the plant temporarily will make it more difficult for its employees to qualify for unemployment benefits.

Vísir is the largest employer in Thingeyri (population 320) and Mr Sveinbjörnsson said it will prove difficult for the plant’s 36 employees to find other jobs in the region for five months while Vísir is closed for business.

Vísir chief executive, Pétur H. Pálsson said the reason for his decision is the drastic cut in the cod fishing quota. The company’s workers in Húsavík said they were glad they had not been given permanent notice and they were confident they would go back to work after five months. is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.