THE Icelandic fishing company VSV in the Westman islands is laying off 41 of its staff and is also putting one of its trawlers up for sale.

This represents about 13 per cent of the total workforce. The job losses are made up of 30 men from the trawler Ganda VE which is being sold and a further 11 shore workers.

The move follows the Government decision to treble the price trawler firms have to pay for their licences to fish. A reduction in cod quota in that particular region (the overall Icelandic cod quota is going up in two months time) are blamed for the decision.

The redundancy of 40 workers may not seem a lot, but in a country with a population of just 330,000 it would be the equivalent of some 2,000 people losing their jobs in a country like the UK. Also there is very little alternative work outside the seafood industry in that part of Iceland. VSV also said it is to undertake a review of the company's operations and added that further streamlining was possible.

VSV said in a statement that it did not take the decision lightly as many of the staff had worked for the company for a long time. It was well aware of the social impact, but no-one should be surprised given the huge increase in catch licence fees which were taken contrary to warnings from several quarters including some of the government's own consultants.

The company also had a responsibility to reduce its operating costs VSV was founded just after the Second World War in 1946 by numerous fishing companies in the Westman islands coming together. It operates a fleet of eight fishing vessels plus seafood processing plants. With around 500 employees working at sea and ashore it is a major employer in that part of Iceland. VSV also has an active fish sales and marketing subsidiary company.