Mr. Jón Bjarnason, Iceland Minister of Fisheries says:
“Our country is better off outside the EU.”

Mr. Marc-Adrien Marcellier, NASF (France) says:
“Netsmen support Salmon Recovery.”

In a keynote speech at the 2009 Conference on Coastal fisheries at Biarritz on November 25 – 27 Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries, Jón Bjarnason, urged commercial fishermen to join conservation efforts to safeguard the fish species that are in need of protection.

His audience included small boat fishermen from several regions of the North Atlantic, many of whom have stopped salmon fishing in return for compensation from NASF and its partners or because wild salmon numbers are now so low.

The conference was organised by CNPMEM and CONAPED and co-hosted by the French marine research institute Ifremer, NASF, leading coastal communities in the Pyrenees Atlantique and Aquitaine regions and other key interested parties.

Minister Jón Bjarnason, a member of the Iceland’s Left-Green party, became fisheries minister in May of 2009. Since then he has shown an impressive grasp of North Atlantic fishery management problems and has launched a major initiative to make fisheries management more eco-friendly. He is particularly interested in the sustainable development of inshore fishing by small boats crewed by one and two men.

The Icelandic management system is already largely based upon sustainability, conservation needs and the efficient utillization of marine resources but Minister Bjarnason is intent on upgrading its aim of protecting sustainable stocks and the social side of the management system. He believes in safeguarding the genetic diversity of fish stocks, maintaining habitat and ecosystem integrity and the introduction of a variety of elements of green technology.

Harvesting quotas for small boats have been increased and a regional system of assessing safe quotas is under consideration. Hook-and-line fisheries will be encouraged further with special emphasis on hand-lining and long-lining. Discards are already forbidden and new efforts are being made to avoid the need to discard fish. There are also new restrictions on mesh sizes and fishing grids and a special procedure to suspend fishing permits in case of excessive catches. Unused catch quota of fish which can be transferred to the following fishing year will be lowered from 33% down to 15% as a general rule but only 10% for this fishing year because of economic reasons.

Iceland’s Directorate of Fisheries operates in an uniquely open way. It allows full internet access to the results of its modern methods of data collection and to detailed information on the catches of all individual Icelandic vessels.

The Minister said that personally he was 'rather strongly against' Iceland joining the EU but Althingi, the Icelandic Parliament, had decided by a very small majority that a national referendum should have the final say. The Icelandic farmers, the food industry, all the other agricultural sector interests and the whole of the fishing industry, he said, were against membership. So was his own political party, the Left Greens.

'Our livelihood lies in our natural resources,’ he said ‘so we must maintain sovereignty over our most valued assets. Our economy, our culture and our future generations depend on it. We can enjoy wide-ranging international cooperation with Europe without being tied up in the EU framework. Given these circumstances, it is my firm belief that the future of our country will be much better off outside the European Union.'

M. Marc-Adrien Marcellier, who is one of NASF’s directors.said : ' We are pleased to have seen how the minister is reforming the traditional fishing industry in Iceland. It is also good to see an acceleration of our activities here in France to involve the public as well as the private sector in developing better management policies.

'The netsmen have supported our recovery plans for salmon, and we are particularly pleased to meet here with commercial fishermen from Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Newfoundland. Brittany, Spain, Portugal and the south of France as well as estuary fishermen from Holland, the Adour and the Gironde and freshwater commercial fishermen from the Loire and the Alpine lakes.

'NASF has pioneered the concept of commercial conservation agreements that help commercial salmon fishermen switch to other and sustainable forms of fishing. It is very important that we maintain and extend our close relationships with those fishermen who are willing to partner us in this very effective way of achieving conservation without damaging incomes or interests. Often we can help them enjoy a better lifestyle.'

From NASF: The North Atlantic Salmon Fund, NASF, is an international coalition of voluntary conservation groups who have come together to restore stocks of wild Atlantic salmon to their historic abundance. – North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF). Helping restore Atlantic salmon to their natural abundance