Sustainability and wealth creation, but no consensus: Recent decades in Iceland’s ITQ-managed fisheries

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This paper describes the main developments, issues, and disputes surrounding Iceland’s fisheries and the indi-
vidual transferable quota (ITQ) system governing them. The path to the ITQ system in Iceland started in 1979 in
some pelagic fisheries. A substantial step was made in demersal fisheries when moving toward an individual
vessel quota (IVQ) system in 1984. The biggest milestone in management was reached in 1990 when a
comprehensive ITQ system was introduced that covered most Icelandic fisheries. Overfishing was a problem in
the early days of the ITQ system. The path to sustainable fisheries was long and gradual, and now, most fish
stocks are sustainably managed. There is clear evidence that the current fishing rights holders in Icelandic
fisheries have demonstrated environmental stewardship because they have not opposed reductions in the total
allowable catch (TAC) of important species. The economic performance of the industry has improved, and both
the fishing and processing parts of Iceland’s fisheries are now very profitable, and the fishing component is
paying significant resource rent taxes. The industry has changed considerably, fishing rights have been
consolidated, primary fish markets have been liberalized, and vertically integrated firms dominate the Icelandic
fishing industry. Fishing rights (permanent quota shares) are very valuable, so entering the industry for new
participants is difficult. The Icelandic ITQ system is now and has always been very controversial and under heavy
political debate and scrutiny.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104836
JournalMarine Policy
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

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© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

Other keywords

  • Sustainability
  • Wealth
  • Profitability
  • No consensus
  • ITQs
  • Iceland
  • ITQ

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