It could take Icelandic fish exporters many years to win back their US market share, according to an importer of fish in Boston, RÚV reports.
The Icelandic fishermen’s strike has been ongoing for six weeks. A negotiating meeting is planned for today, but many issues remain to be solved.
RÚV asked the negotiating parties to give them and estimate of how much the fishermen’s demands are likely to cost the fisheries. Those would be demands on top of those made by their representatives in their last contract, against which the fishermen voted in December. Those additional demands include free meals, free clothing, and free communication up to a certain point, having a fishermen’s discount on taxes reinstated, and an increased fishermen’s share in the value of the catch.
The Fishermen’s Association estimates those demands to cost the fisheries about ISK 3 billion (USD 26.4 million, EUR 24.5 million) annually, while Fisheries Iceland puts the annual figure at ISK 4 billion (USD 35 million, EUR 33 million).
The impact of the strike is widely felt, among other places in the US. Aquanor Marketing in Boston has purchased Icelandic fish for many years, about 1,000 tons of fresh haddock and cod a year, which it distributes to stores and restaurants in 46 states.
Eric Kaiser, CEO of the company, remarked:
“The problem here in the US is that most customers order the same amount on a regular basis. For those customers, the quality of the product matters much, and that’s where Iceland excels beyond all others, but stability is also important. Since we started importing fish from Iceland in 1992, the supply has always been steady. Now, for the first time, there is a long-term lack of products, and most of the customers have found new suppliers. They import fish from Alaska, the Pacific Ocean, Norway and Canada.”
Kaiser predicts it will be rather difficult to get back into the market. “But it’s not only about getting back in, but to regain the position they were in.” That, he fears, could take many years. He believes it’s essential to bring an end to the strike as soon as possible.