The Ministry for Foreign Affairs has called the ambassadors of the United States of America, Denmark, Canada, Norway and the Russian Federation to a meeting in the ministry and made observations on the consultation of the five states on fishing in the Arctic Ocean, signed in Oslo last week.
The declaration of the five states is non-binding but Iceland believes it is important that all parties are on equal footing in order to ensure efficiency and strengthen the basis of collaboration on fishing in international waters, including the Arctic Ocean.
Climate change and the warming of the oceans mean that international waters in the Arctic may in the near future become accessible for fishing. The management and arrangement of such fisheries are of great concern for Iceland, which largely bases its earnings on marine resources. Iceland emphasises that its scientific knowledge and fishing experience can contribute significantly to consultations and discussions in this field.
It is important that all interested states take part in joint policy-making concerning the Arctic. Iceland was not invited to be party to the declaration, even though maritime affairs are highly important to Iceland and Iceland is among the world‘s leading fishing nations. Ever since the five states started their consultation without the participation of Iceland, with the Ilulissat declaration in 2008, the Icelandic authorities have regularly commented on Iceland being kept outside discussions on important affairs concerning the Arctic.
The position of the Icelandic authorities is based on the following:
- Maritime affairs are tremendously important for Iceland and Iceland has placed great emphasis on regional collaboration on solid scientific basis. Iceland for example takes active part in the North-East Atlantic Fisheris commission (NEAFC), the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and is party to the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement which forms the legal framework for fishing in international waters, including the Arctic Ocean;
- Iceland is among the world‘s leading fishing nations and none of the Arctic states is as dependent on fisheries as Iceland;
- Iceland admits that the future exploitation of fish stocks in the Arctic is subject to uncertainty, but emphasises that Iceland‘s scientific knowledge and fishing experience can contribute significantly to consultations and discussions in this field;
- Iceland regrets that although it has repeatedly asked to participate in the collaboration, the five states have decided to keep Iceland outside consultations and preparations on the declaration in question;
- Participation in the discussions of the five states has, rightly, not been conditional on the states having exclusive economic zone to the Arctic Ocean as neither Norway nor the Faeroe Islands meet such conditions. Iceland has the same rights and duties to take part in all discussions on the future development on fishing in international waters in the Arctic Ocean and it is therefore completely inconsequent to exclude Iceland from participation;
- The declaration by the five states is non-binding under international law and is not made under the auspices of or in the name of any international organisation or agreement. Iceland is therefore not bound by this declaration but believes it is necessary that all parties are on equal footing in order to ensure efficiency and strengthen the basis of collaboration on fishing in international waters, including the Arctic Ocean.
The Icelandic authorities will continue to emphasise the value of its knowledge and experience of fishing in the Arctic to future policy-making in the field and that Iceland is a recognised participant in the states‘ consultation on equal terms.