After Iceland gained full control over its fishing grounds in the 1970s, the government began to control fishing by imposing restrictions on effort (i.e., the time that vessels were permitted to engage in fishing). Limits varied from one type of vessel to another and from one season to another. As the fishing fleet was thought to be far too large, the government also made funds available for the decommissioning of fishing vessels. In 1984, it started awarding catch entitlements (quotas) for fish as the main method of control, replacing effort restrictions. These quotas were awarded on the basis of their previous catch performance, and applied to individual vessels; thus, someone who wanted to catch more cod could only do so by buying a vessel with its quota. Later on quotas were permitted to be bought and sold without buying or selling the vessels attached to them. Similar arrangements were introduced for more and more demersal fish species. – Even though catch restriction was the main method of control, for a long time part of the fishing fleet was allowed to go on making catches subject to effort restrictions; this accounted for only a small proportion of the total catch. In addition, catches are subject to permanent restrictions by means of regulations on net mesh sizes and temporary closures of certain areas to all fishing.
Fishing off the Faroes was controlled by catch restrictions for some years, but in 1996 this system was abandoned and replaced by effort restrictions, with allocations of fishing days that can be transferred to other vessels. The vessels are divided into categories, each of which is allocated an area in which it may fish. Later amendments were made to the restrictions.
Controversy surrounds both methods. One of the criticisms is that fishing vessels with cod quotas (for example) catch other fish besides cod in their nets, but have no permits to catch them. Even if they hold permits to catch more than one species, the overall catch is skewed because the catches made by each individual boat may be in different proportions to those covered by its quota. No attempt will be made to tackle this problem here. In an effort-control system, a great number of factors have to be assessed regarding vessel categorization and the boundaries of areas in which each category is permitted to fish, or which particular types of fishing gear are permitted. These questions can be handled with fund voting, in which the participants show by their vote stakes how much they are in favour of making changes to the categories, the areas or any other factors.
In both catch and effort control systems, prices may be placed on permits: for catch quotas, on the one hand, or fishing days on the other. Such prices could be calculated either according to special rules or as a result of bids offered by the vessel-operators. Naturally there will not be unanimity on questions such as these; variety of opinions could be expressed through fund voting.
A sudden switch from effort control to catch control, or vice versa, is a major undertaking. In the case of fund voting, it can be tackled by setting out a proposal for a total solution, those concerned being given the opportunity to suggest amendments. These can then be treated in the same way as is described in the section above on budget proposals. Amendments could also be introduced in stages, but it is not certain that this would be easier to implement.
Who should participate in fund voting on the control of the use of fishing areas?
Who should be in charge of such fund voting? People’s opinions on this are not strictly along political party lines. At first it would be advisable to use fund voting only as a guide for the government. It would then be possible to consider putting the Parliamentary Fisheries Committee in charge of fund voting. The members of the committee might have the right to vote. The committee could also encourage others to participate in the same way as is common for parliamentary committees when they seek external opinion on issues. Local councils might also be allowed to become involved with the issues and be allotted fund votes in proportion to the weighting of the fisheries and fish processing, the scale being possibly the number of weeks of employment in both of these branches of the industry. The Fisheries Association would be in charge of the implementation on the basis of weeks of employment as counted by Statistics Iceland.