Svandís Svavarsdóttir, Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, yesterday presented the draft of the long-awaited new policy for fish farming in Iceland. Focusing on the utilization of the country's natural resources, the Icelandic Government, which describes its proposal as "ambitious," proposes a "reasonable fee" for aquaculture operators. The policy includes an action plan for 2028 and extends its objectives to 2040.
"The cost of the article must reflect that the utilization of resources is limited," the Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries said. "It is essential that those who benefit from the exploitation of the country's natural resources pay a reasonable fee. But it is no less important that we set ourselves ambitious, measurable, environmental goals and timed guards on their way to their goals," she added.
According to the policy presented yesterday, this fee referred to by Minister Svavarsdóttir will be divided between the state and local authorities to ensure that municipalities can finance the necessary infrastructure and services structure created by the growth of the industry.
Likewise, the Ministry explains that this proposal for licensees to pay a fee for the use of common resources that generate income is subject to administration, research and monitoring of the issue and the necessary infrastructure.
As the Minister mentioned in her statements, the new policy emphasizes surveillance, monitoring, and research of production to ensure that the most stringent requirements are met to prevent the industry from negatively affecting the environment in the future. The legal framework for agriculture in Iceland – the Ministry says – must be based on clear criteria of sustainable use, ecosystem approach, and precaution.
To achieve these objectives, the new policy presented by the Icelandic Government establishes economic incentives to help operators invest in the best available equipment, working methods and qualified personnel. But it also stresses that, at the same time, the performance and results of each operator will affect their license to operate.
Finally, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries has said that the future legal framework for farming in Iceland guarantees funding for research and monitoring by the Marine Research Institute, as well as funding for monitoring and licensing by the Food Agency. The policy is now on the Government's consultation portal, where the deadline for comment is 4 November.
Although shortly after the news broke, a Government spokesperson confirmed to WeAreAquaculture that there are still three licenses that will be processed under the previous legal framework, the Minister recently took the decision to postpone the auction of new licenses until the new policy has been approved by Parliament and is fully implemented. Both this decision and the outline of the new aquaculture policy presented yesterday confirm once again that Iceland does not forget to focus on the conservation of the environment and its natural resources, both marine resources through licenses, as well as geothermal resources, so important in land-based farming projects in the island country.
Moreover, as stated in the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report on 'The State and Future of Aquaculture in Iceland', commissioned by the Government to be the basis on which this policy would be elaborated, Iceland seems to have learned from its own and others' experience for its future plan for aquaculture. A fee for the producers? Yes, but reasonable, avoiding controversies like Norway's. Control over their performance and results? Yes, but also economic incentives.
As Minister Svavarsdóttir said at the conference 'The Future of the Ocean and Aquaculture in Iceland' – organized by the Icelandic Aquaculture and Oceans Forum (IAOF) and Arion Bank-, paraphrasing a sentence from the findings of the BCG report: "Aquaculture could be a new economic pillar in the Icelandic economy."