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Changing rules for regulation of Icelandic fisheries


  • Thorolfur Matthiasson

    (University of Iceland)


From the 1950s to the mid-seventies, Iceland’s efforts in international diplomacy were largely devoted to convincing other nations that Icelanders should control and utilise the resources of the waters within 12, then 50 and finally 200 nautical miles around the island. During the last quarter of the twentieth century, Icelandic politicians have devoted considerable time and effort to the debate on how to organise the utilisation of these resources and in what way the revenues from this harvest should be distributed. This paper gives a short account of the development of regulatory reforms in four types of Icelandic fisheries. None of these reformatory processes can be said to be a replica of any of the other processes. It seems apparent on the face of things that each reformatory process is unique and distinct from the others, except in its final outcome, the rule of the ITQs. However, this conclusion may be too short sighted. From the earliest history of regulatory reforms, it is evident that the ITQ system which eventually came into being was not the intended outcome. There is a common pattern for all the fisheries, however. First of all, serious attempts to reform management practices start when the fishery has collapsed or is close to collapse. Secondly, the first thing that stakeholders do is close the club that has access to the given fishery. Thirdly, a variety of rules are implemented to allocate participation rights when the club of participants has been closed. Fourthly, prior to the invention of the ITQ system, prices were used to manage fisheries in Iceland. It may be that management of fisheries by ITQs rather than through some form of taxes or fees has historical rather than logical roots.

Suggested Citation

  • Thorolfur Matthiasson, 2000. "Changing rules for regulation of Icelandic fisheries," Industrial Organization 0004005, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpio:0004005
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    More about this item


    Resource Rent Distribution; Fishery Management; Fishery regulation; Rules of Governance;

    JEL classification:

    • H29 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Other
    • L52 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Industrial Policy; Sectoral Planning Methods
    • L79 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Primary Products and Construction - - - Other
    • Q22 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Fishery

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