Iceland’s Marine Research Institute currently has only one vessel available capable of carrying out capelin survey work. Image: Hafró

So far this year there has been no move to conduct a capelin survey of Icelandic waters, and according to fishing vessel operators’ federation Samtök Fyrirtækja í Sjavarútvegi (SFS), the authorities do not have the necessary vessel capacity available, and do not appear to be looking for other options, even though these are on offer.

According to SFS, there is nothing unusual about the authorities contracting commercial vessels to carry out survey work – and at present the outlook is that there will be no capelin fishery this winter.

‘The lack of initiative by the government has to be seen as regrettable,’ a spokesman for SFS said, commenting that fishing companies have invested heavily in vessels, equipment and marketing, supporting fishermen, their families, fishing communities and the economy as a whole.

‘The best possible research is the basis of responsible exploitation of marine resources, supporting economic wellbeing. In recent years the importance of marine research has grown, partly due to changes in the environment and the ocean. In addition, overseas buyers place an increasingly heavy burden on fishing nations to demonstrate that fisheries are based on detailed, objective research.’

SFS states that capelin surveys are not easy to conduct and demand a great deal of sea time, not least as weather can be difficult and capelin are frequently elusive.

‘Now the situation is that the authorities have only one available research vessel, Árni Friðriksson,’ SFS’s spokesman said.

‘Considering the demands the catch regulation places on capelin surveying, that one vessel operating alone, is not sufficient to conduct the overall measurements to the extent that a capelin quota can be allocated. It is vital that more vessels take part in searching for capelin – preferably three or four.’

‘Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to occur to the authorities, in spite of the values at stake that run to tens of billions of ISK annually. The government sees marine research as an expense, and not as the basis of creating value. This misconception could turn out to be an expensive one,’ SFS said.