Icelandic Seafood Industry

The fishing industry is one of the main pillars of the Icelandic economy. Marine products have historically been the country’s leading export items and the seafood industry remains the backbone of the economy. Responsible fisheries at the Icelandic fishing grounds are the prerequisite for the Icelandic fishing industry continuing being a solid part of the Icelandic economy and a principal pillar in Iceland’s exports.

Iceland has created one of the most modern and competitive seafood industries in the world, based on sustainable harvest and protection of the marine ecosystem. 

Rich fishing grounds

Iceland maintains a 200 nautical miles exclusive fishing zone (758,000 km2) that includes some of the richest fishing grounds in the world. The fisheries management in Iceland is primarily based on extensive research on the fish stocks and the marine ecosystem and biodiversity, and decisions on allowable catches are made on the basis of scientific advice from the Icelandic Marine Research Institute. Catches are effectively monitored and enforced by the Directorate of Fisheries. These are the main pillars of the Icelandic fisheries management intended to ensure responsible fisheries and the sustainability of the ocean’s natural resources.

Good fisheries management based on internationally agreed principles

In 2007, all stakeholders in the fisheries sector, signed a statement on responsible fisheries, intended for everyone concerned about the status of the fish stocks and responsible fisheries, particularly the numerous parties that purchase and consume Icelandic fish products. These are the keystones of the Icelandic fisheries management intended to ensure responsible fisheries and the sustainability of the ocean’s natural resources. 

The fisheries management in Iceland is primarily based on extensive research on the fish stocks and the marine ecosystem and biodiversity, and decisions on allowable catches are made by the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture on the basis of scientific advice from the Icelandic Marine Research Institute. Catches are effectively monitored and enforced by the Directorate of Fisheries.  

Economically important industry

The Fishing industry is one of the key industries in Iceland, and directly employs around 11,000 people, or approx. 4.2% of the total workforce. The seafood industry contributed 11% to the GDP directly, and 25% if account is taken of the indirect effects of the ocean cluster. In 2015 the export production of marine products amounted to ISK 265 billion (€ 1.8 billion), an 8% increase from previous year and 3% decrease in quantity, a total of 632 thousand tonnes.

Frozen products generated 47% of the value of exported marine products, and marine products account for 42% of total export value. Iceland is in the 18th place among leading fishing nations in the world, with 1.5% of the total world's catch (2013). Europe is the largest market for Icelandic seafood products, with approx. 70-80% share in recent years. Cod is the most valuable fish stock, accounting for approximately 38% of total seafood industry exports. UK is the single most important market for Icelandic seafood products for a very long time.

There are 1,663 fishing ships in Iceland (2015), of which 758 are machine ships and 46 trawlers.

Internationally competitive service industry

Rapid advances in Icelandic fisheries have been accompanied by the development of manufacturing and service industries that draw on long experience of the practical needs of fishing and fish processing operations. The fishing fleet is equipped with advanced technology and the same is true for the processing facilities on land. Among the leading fields are software products, electronic and digital equipment such as scales for on-board, as well as land-based weighing and process control, and graders for landed or even live fish. A wide selection of tubs, boxes and packaging for handling storage and retailing of fresh and frozen products are made in Iceland, as well as trawl nets, trawl doors and fishing boats, safety equipment and protective clothing. Icelandic manufacturers have designed and installed many processing plants around the world for companies ranging from vessel owners to industrial food processors.

 

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