Reykjavík, October 24, 2023 — Fisheries officials from nine Pacific Island countries have arrived in Iceland to learn from the country’s experience with building a thriving, sustainable fisheries sector.
The visit, part of a collaboration between the World Bank and the Icelandic Government, aims to give many of the Pacific’s leading fisheries experts the opportunity to learn from a country that has emerged from being a development assistance-recipient to becoming a global leader in maintaining sustainable fisheries.
Over the next 10 days, Pacific fisheries leaders, including Directors and Chiefs of Fisheries divisions from Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and the regional Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), will explore Iceland’s newest practices and technologies in sustainable fisheries management, best practices in handling of raw fish material, and look at how Iceland has managed and developed a thriving private fisheries sector.
The initiative has been co-organized by the World Bank – with financing from PROBLUE, a multi-donor trust fund administered by the World Bank that supports the integrated and sustainable development of marine and coastal resources in a healthy ocean – together with Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the GRO-Fisheries Training Programme.
Despite the considerable geographical distance between Iceland (population 390,000) and the Pacific Islands (with a combined population of 2.3 million across 11 World Bank member countries), there are significant similarities among their fisheries sectors. Iceland has transformed its economy by harnessing the economic and social benefits of renewable natural resources, such as water (hydropower), geothermal energy, and fisheries. The country carefully manages its marine resources through a science-based quota system that controls the harvest quantity of all its commercial fish stocks, which has an export value of about US$2.5 billion; about 70% of which is processed in Iceland for export.
“Going back 50 years, Iceland was struggling with management of its fisheries sector, reliable information from the industry, handling of raw material, lack of high-end markets and technology,” said Thor Asgeirsson, Director of Iceland’s GRÓ Fisheries Training Program. “Up until mid-1970s, our country was an overseas development assistance beneficiary country – as most Pacific countries are now – but with the extension of our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and transformation in fisheries management and technology, Iceland is today a relatively prosperous country thanks to, among other industries, fisheries.”
Iceland has provided a benchmark that many Pacific countries could look towards as having successfully and sustainably grown their fisheries sectors, said Xavier Vincent, the World Bank’s Lead Fisheries Specialist for the Pacific.
“Pacific Island nations have increased their earnings from tuna fisheries to about $500 million in the last six years through enhanced management and surveillance coordinated by entities like the FFA,” Vincent said. "There's still huge untapped potential in onshore processing and geothermal energy. Delegates are excited at the potential for these sectors in the Pacific, and there is no greater way of understanding their benefits than seeing them in action.”
Interviews with officials and delegates in Iceland are available.