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International policy

The international policy of Iceland is supported by two key pillars. Firstly, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and secondly, the principle of sustainable development, enshrined at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio. This is further supported by the view that responsibility for the conservation and utilisation of marine ecosystems should primarily be with  States whose greatest interests are directly at stake.

Iceland promotes national, regional and international efforts to regulate the use of living marine resources and to protect and improve the health of the marine environment. Iceland actively participated in establishing the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS as well as the  follow up agreements to UNCLOS, the Straddling Fish Stocks Agreement (came into force in 2001) and the UN Compliance Agreement (came into force in 2003). Iceland was also active in establishing  the 2009 FAO Agreement on Port State Measures and the 2014 FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Flag State Performance.  

Regional fisheries management organisations play a key role in securing the conservation and effectively managing the use of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. Therefore, Iceland cooperates actively with neighbouring countries through these organizations, such as the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the International Convention on Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO).

Sustainable fisheries management should incorporate ecosystem considerations which entails taking into account the impacts of fisheries on the marine ecosystem and the impacts of the marine ecosystem on fisheries. Monitoring the impact of fisheries and other extractive activities on the marine ecosystem is a core concept of this approach in line with the UN-FAO Reykjavik Declaration on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem in 2001. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) is important for co-operation in marine science, which is an essential basis for responsible management of living marine resources.

Iceland‘s contribution to UN development has to a large extent  been related to fisheries. In line with this policy the United Nations University Fisheries Training Programme (UNU-FTP) was launched in Iceland in 1998 through a tri-lateral agreement between the United Nations University, the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Marine Research Institute of Iceland. The UNU-FTP offers six months of applied postgraduate-level training in various areas supporting the fisheries sector for practicing professionals in less developed countries.  The programme operates in collaboration with many agencies in Iceland, including academic institutions, private fishing companies, governmental institutions and research firms. The Programme was recognized in 2013 by the General Assembly of the United Nations within its fisheries resolution for capacity building in developing countries.

The Arctic Council provides the main venue for the member states to promote sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic. In addition, the Nordic Council, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UN ECE) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), provide extremely valuable platforms to work on issues of sustainable management. Iceland is party to various conventions on the environment, among them the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic, the Bern Agreement on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).

Icelandic authorities emphasize the need to prevent marine pollution through international co-operation and various multilateral agreements.

For further information please visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iceland.

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