Outspoken Icelandic fishing MP dies suddenly Published: 17 July, 2007
Einar Oddur Kristjánsson
EINAR Oddur Kristjánsson, a highly respected Icelandic MP and one of the country’s most outspoken critics against the current fishing quota system, has died suddenly from a suspected heart attack.
The 64-year-old ruling Independence Party MP was out hiking on Dýrafjördur, the Westfjords region’s highest mountain, at the weekend when he collapsed and was taken ill. He died a few hours later.
He had recently been involved in a high profile and largely successful campaign to save dozens of jobs under threat by the proposed closure of a fish processing plant in the remote fishing village of Flateyri, one of the ports he represented. The company which ran the factory had sold its quota and the work was going to be moved to another part of the country before Mr Kristjánsson and others stepped in.
But he was also strongly opposed to Iceland’s current fish quota system which he believed was damaging the fishing industry and threatening the long term economy of the country.
Iceland last week sent shock waves through Europe’s fish processing industry by announcing a 30 per cent or 60,000 tonne cut in the new annual cod quota which comes into effect in September.
Just a few weeks ago, Mr Kristjánsson used the Iceland National Day celebration to deliver a highly charged speech, saying the current quota regime had failed to save cod stocks and failed to save small fishing villages around Iceland.
He maintained: “Every person that is neither blind nor deaf must realise the quota system has failed. We must be able, and it is our duty, to approach these things with an open mind. We have to be prepared to review everything from the beginning.”
He fought long and hard for strengthening the fishing industry in the Westfjords, the region he represented in the Althing, Iceland’s parliament. He was also a strong critic of many aspects of Iceland’s economic policy. Trading in valuable Icelandic fish quotas has increased sharply this year and many shared his fears that high interest rates currently 14.25 per cent and a rising krona are leading to a potential crisis within the fishing industry.
In fact, Mr Kristjánsson was born on Boxing Day 1942 in Flateyri, the town he battled to save last month. He leaves behind a wife and three grown up children. Between 1968 and until he became an MP in 1995, Kristjánsson was involved in operating several Westfjordian fishing companies. He served on a number of Icelandic fishing and agricultural sub-committees and was also involved on the international stage.
His death leaves a major void in Icelandic politics and it will be the many scattered small fishing ports around the country, who are at risk from changing economic developments, that will miss his voice the most. He was their champion.
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