Fishing is the most important industry in Iceland -- an island country in the North Atlantic with little natural resources or major industrial operation.
Fishing is the most important industry in Iceland -- an island country in the North Atlantic with little natural resources or major industrial operation. The state of the fishing industry can often and quickly affect the economic health of the country's 200,000 people. In recent weeks, many Icelandic fishermen have been pressing for an extension of the fishing rights from the current 12 miles (19 kms) to a proposed 50 miles (80 kms).
Speculation over an Icelandic move to extend fishing rights had grown in the wake of Sunday's (13 June) general election in which the 12-year-old coalition government of former Premier Johannes Hafstein was voted out in a nationwide swing to the left. All parties wanted to extend the rights -- but Mr Hafstein wanted to consult with Britain and other countries first.
Icelandic fishermen are generally in favour of the move -- unilaterally and without prior consultations.
This film looks at fishermen and the port of Reykjavik following the general elections.
SYNOPSIS: Reykjavik -- the capital of Iceland. It's important to the country not only as a national capital but as the centre of its most important industry -- fishing. The small North Atlantic nation's economic success depends greatly upon the industry.
Always important, fishing has taken on a new significance following the general election.
The 12-year-old coalition government was voted out last Sunday in a swing to the left, and a new Parliament sits here -- in central Reykjavik.
One issue in the elections was the extension of fishing rights from the current 12 miles to a proposed 50 miles. Former Premier Johann Hafstein supported the extension -- but wanted to consult with Britain and other countries first. Some opposition parliamentarians, however wanted the move made unilaterally. Many fishermen also want the extension made now -- without consultations. They say their livelihood depends on it. The economic health of Iceland's 200,000 people is also involved. When, in 1967, the industry suffered a setback -- the gross national product tumbled by 13 per cent.
Iceland's foreign trade in recent years has amounted to about 40 per cent of the country's gross national product. And between 90 and 97 per cent of that has come from the fishing industry.
The mainstay of the industry is provided by trawlers. There are some 730 such decked vessels in the Icelandic fishing fleet as well as over a thousand smaller open vessels used mainly in the summer.
The threat of these boats going 50 miles out to sea to fish in home waters has raised a storm in Britain and other fishing countries. The extension would take in some of the would's richest fishing grounds on the Icelandic Continental Shelf. But the British Government has taken the view that the move would be a violation of international law -- and Britain had it's trawlers escorted to six miles off Iceland when rights were unilaterally extended to 12 miles a decade ago.
The gathering of fish is not all of Iceland's fishing industry -- there are processing plant, too. Canning, salting and other techniques are carried out at plants such as this in Reykjavik. The Common Market Executive Commission on Thursday agreed that new members should be able to retain a six-mile limit for five years after joining. Reportedly, Iceland only made a proposal rather than a definite declaration of intent when mentioning the 50-mile limit to the United Nations -- as she was said to have done on Monday. But many Icelandic fishermen want the limit extended as soon as possible and without consultations.