Musings, politics and environmental issues

Archive for February, 2015

Fishing management still controversial in Iceland

Many Icelanders, up to 75% or more, are dissatisfied with how fishing management is governed and how the largest fishing companies are extremely wealthy. The Social Democrat/Left-Green coalition tried to reform the system, and laid down a draft policy and a parliamentary Bill, but nothing came of either of these – they got lost in committee. Their idea was to reform the quota system that many people find unjust. But the then-Opposition parties, namely the Progressive Party and Independence Party, were fiercely opposed to the idea of reforming the system and were accused of filibustering in order to sabotage the Bill.

The current government has also been trying to put forward a new version of fishing management. The Fisheries and Agriculture Minister, Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson from the Progressive Party, drafted a Bill on the matter which was apparently completed in December last year. But it has been stuck in Cabinet meetings, as the Independence Party members do not agree with everything in the new Bill – for instance, that the marine resources are owned by the Icelandic people rather than the fishing companies. In fact, I gather that the IP members don’t really have a problem with the current fishing management system and are hesitant to change it at all. SIJ has now said that the Bill won’t be on the agenda for this parliamentary year.

Meanwhile, Norway are thinking of taking up the Icelandic quota system for their fishing management control scheme, in order to make the fishing market there more profitable. However, an Icelander living in Norway, Birgir Haukdal, told the Norwegian radio today that it would be crazy to take up the Icelandic system, as it had proved disastrous for the smaller boat owners and small communities in Iceland.

Environment Minister wants to dilute wording of Directives

Iceland’s environment minister, Sigrun Magnusdottir, wants to dilute the wording used on Directives that are transposed into Icelandic because of EEA regulations. She is quoted in the newspaper Fréttablaðið that circumstances in Iceland are different to those in other places. In point of fact, European legislation that Iceland has to transpose has long been a thorny issue for her party, the Progressive Party.

The Federation of Icelandic Translations and Interpreters is up in arms, and rightly so. Directives have to be identical all over Europe – you can’t dilute wording because you don’t agree with the Directive, which is basically what this is all about. I have tried to find out which Directives she is upset about, but haven’t yet had a reply from the information officer for the ministry.

The Holuhraun eruption, part II

I wrote a blog about the Holuhraun eruption in Iceland in September, focusing on the potential health consequences of it. Now I’ve just had an article published about it on Al Jazeera, this time focusing on health and environmental effects, and the concept of gas pollution.

For a while, gas pollution seemed to have lessened somewhat and, after pressure from various tourist companies in the north, the police commissioner in northeast Iceland, along with the Civil Protection Authority, is currently looking at whether it is safe to allow the general public near the erupting volcano at Holuhraun. The tourist companies had been complaining that the banned area means they cannot drive tourists to certain destinations that involve the use of roads in the banned area. It is also difficult to plan trips for the coming summer.

Up till now, a large area has been closed off with access allowed only to scientists and the police. This was done because of the release of toxic gases from the volcano, primarily sulphur dioxide, but also because sudden flooding could arise if an eruption started under the nearby glacier.

However, gas pollution has got worse again, and high levels have also been recorded at Askja, one of the tourist destinations to which access is currently denied. So I doubt that travel restrictions will be lifted. Gas pollution from volcanoes isn’t something that can be controlled by turning off a switch.

One scientist had been predicting that the eruption would peter out in early March, but since I submitted the article the scientists have started saying that it might last 5-17 months, if not more.