A friend on Facebook updated her status yesterday with the remark that, in her view, the upcoming elections revolve around the choice between EU and LÍU, not the different party lists.
LÍU is the acronym for Landssamband Íslenskra Útvegsmanna, or The Federation of Icelandic Fishing Vessel Operators, an association for the interests of those who own and operate the largest fishing vessels in Iceland. One of the major issues for the upcoming elections concerns the fisheries management system which was implemented around 30 years ago in order to protect the fish stocks. Most people would agree that the system, as such, has proven its worth in terms of doing just that. However, the way it was implemented remains highly controversial.
The fisheries management system is based on the issuing of quotas for different types of fish that must be adhered to in any given fishing year. The quotas are arrived at through research conducted by the Marine Research Institute of Iceland, which uses modern technology to study the condition of different stocks. The system isn’t flawless, but so far at least it has managed to keep Iceland’s fish stocks from collapsing.
When the system was implemented nearly 30 years ago, a decision was made to allocate the quotas based on previous catch results. This effectively means that those who fished the most previously get the largest quota. Over the years, a handful of individuals have become incredibly wealthy based on the allocation of quotas. The fact that quota owners are allowed to transfer their quotas [i.e. sell them or rent them] has meant that quotas have in many cases been sold out of small villages around the country that were previously heavily dependent on fishing. With the quota gone, everything else collapses, such as fish processing and various service-related jobs, accounting for the debilitated state of many of those villages today.
This form of quota allocation has long been a heavy point of contention in Icelandic society and there is much anger that allocations from this common resource, i.e. Iceland’s fishing grounds, have served to make a few individuals fantastically rich. To add insult to injury, since the economic collapse it has transpired that many of these “quota kings” [as they are called in Icelandic] have mortgaged their quotas for massive loans on which they are at risk of defaulting — meaning that a large share of the unfished resource in the sea now effectively belongs to foreign creditors.
Last year, the UN’s Commission on Human Rights ruled that Iceland’s quota allocation system is unlawful because it is discriminatory. Yet the Independence Party, which if you’ve just joined us ruled this country for 18 years prior to the collapse of Iceland’s government in January, has resolutely refused to change the system despite widespread discontent. They have clearly been protecting the interests of the fat cats, and it is almost a given that the quota kings have paid handsomely into the coffers of the IP in the past, in return for the IP keeping the system in place. Now that the IP is no longer in control, the demand for a recall of the quota back to the people is growing increasingly louder.
Just before parliament recessed last week, the two coalition parties – the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Greens – tried unsuccessfully to pass a bill that would allow for amendments to Iceland’s constitution aimed at, among other things, returning the quotas to the people for a more fair system of allocation. The bill was not passed because the Independence Party successfully employed the stalling strategy by holding endless speeches, blabbering about nothing, even reciting names for no good reason and singing little ditties in the podium [see Árni Johnsen employing his very best stalling strategy here]. Consequently time ran out to be able to get the bill through parliament.
[How the Independence Party is still getting around a 23 percent following in the polls is completely beyond me; I JUST DON’T GET IT.]
Meanwhile, the question of EU accession, while prominent before, has become an increasingly heated topic in the last few days. More on that later, however.
MISERABLE WEATHER OUT THERE
We’ve had torrential horizontal rain all morning, with gale-force winds. The rain has since slowed to a trickle, but the wind remains. Hoping it will change, am starting to suffer from cabin fever. Currently 6C [43F], the sun came up at 5:31 am and will go down at 9:23 pm.