Almost 30,000 people have signed a petition in protest of a bill on the distribution of the mackerel quota presented by Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson at the end of April, from which certain members of his party, the Progressive Party, were set to profit.
The petition, online on thjodareign.is, reads:
“We undersigned challenge the president of Iceland to refer all laws approved by Alþingi [the parliament] where the fisheries resource is disbursed for more than one year at a time to a national referendum while there is no clause on the national ownership of natural resources in the constitution and the nation has not been guaranteed a full charge for the resources’ exploitation.”
In the bill, the mackerel quota is being issued for the next six years.
Sigurður commented on RÚV’s news magazine Kastljós yesterday that the petition had surprised him. He stated that it’s important to listen to the voices of the people behind the petition but pointed out that there are great and conflicting interests in the fishing industry and that the bill had been designed to please as many groups as possible.
For example, small boat owners are being given a five-percent share of the mackerel quota, which is a bigger share than they have been given so far, the minister explained.
Sigurður added that the Ombudsman of Alþingi’s evaluation of the mackerel quota had been taken into account and that different viewpoints had been considered, such as that small boats are catching mackerel in shallow waters where the fish is interrupting the food chain in the ocean by eating plankton and sandeels, causing trouble for seabirds.
The mackerel’s presence in Icelandic waters has increased significantly in recent years and Iceland is in a dispute with other mackerel fishing nations over the share of the overall quota.
Sigurður argued that the uncertainty regarding agreements with other states and the continued presence of mackerel in Icelandic waters is the reason for issuing a six-year quota.