Lower fish prices hit fleet earnings

LOWER fish prices are starting to hit the earnings of Iceland’s trawler fleet – and at a time when costs are on the rise.

The latest figures from Statistics Iceland show that dur­ing the 12-month per­i­od from May 2016 to April this year the catch values of Icelandic vessels amoun­ted to 115 bill­i­on kronas (ISK), a 20.1 per cent decl­ine compared with the same per­i­od last year. The 10-week long fishermen’s strike will have played a large part in this.

But the strike is not the only reason. The value of catch by Icelandic vessels in April, when the fleet was fully back at sea, was almost ISK 8.4 billion ISK, which is about 26 per cent down on April 2016. And this was in spite of a five per cent increase in the total tonnage landed.

The value of the demersal catch was ISK 6.5 billion, which is a 22.6 per cent decrease compared with April 2016.

The revenue from cod, Iceland’s most important fish export, fell by 25.2 per cent. Flatfish catch value was down by 34.9 per cent and the value of pelagic catch (mackerel, herring, blue whiting) declined by 29 per cent.

Statistics Iceland said the lower values reflected falling quayside prices for all species.

Following the fishermen’s strike settlement in February, Iceland’s owners are now facing higher operating costs.

But there are likely to be more to come in the shape of higher fishing fees – or licences – which allow them to go to sea.

Particularly hard hit will be the small boats and coastal vessel owners, and their association’s appeal to fisheries minister Þor­gerður Katrín Gunn­ars­dótt­ir to increase their quotas to help compensate for these extra costs has brought a speedy response.

Last weekend she raised the catch levels by 560 tonnes to a total of 9,760 tonnes.

Örn Pálsson, managing director of the Small Business Owners Association, said he was pleased with the decision, adding that it was a recognition of the importance played by the coastal fleet.

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