The Icelandic parliament passed a law around midnight yesterday which gives the Minister of Fisheries authority to grant provisional licenses for fish farming, RÚV reports. Forty-five MPs voted for the bill while six abstained. The bill was proposed yesterday afternoon by the Minister and the Employment Advisory Committee met on the matter all evening preceding the vote.
The operational licenses of salmon farming companies Arctic Sea Farm and Fjarðarlax for a combined 17,500 tonnes of fish in open-net farms in the Westfjords were revoked last week by the Environmental and Natural Resources Board of Appeal. Nature conversation groups and landowners had brought charges against the licenses to the board, citing concerns of pollution and the spreading of farmed salmon into fishing rivers around the country.
Minister of Fisheries Kristján Þór Júlíusson said at the final vote that he was grateful for the parliament’s quick response on the urgent issue, which he said “had reached a dead end. With the procedure that parliament applied today it has been opened and it is no longer a bottleneck, rather an open street which gives us the opportunity to continue to build up in Iceland on the basis of transparent and good governance.”
MPs who voted for the bill cited their support for fragile Westfjords communities. “With this bill the message is being sent that aquaculture in Iceland will continue to be developed,” stated Independence Party MP Teitur Björn Einarsson, adding that the government was prioritising “people, their welfare, and opportunities for self-reliance.”
Social Democratic Alliance MP Guðmundur Andri Thorsson abstained from the vote, expressing dissatisfaction with the handling of the issue and the type of intervention that the legislation entails. “We owe it to Icelandic nature, ourselves, and the future to do our best, not least when it comes to projects that have a profound effect on our country,” he stated.