Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Reinemann, Martin W.||Stevens, George P.

Degree Name

M.S. Ed. (Master of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Geography




The purpose of this paper is to present a geographic analysis of the pelagic fisheries of the Republic of Iceland, with emphasis on their past and present importance to the country, and their changing role in relation to the country’s future. Each major aspect—catch rate, species utilized, methods of processing, types of products produced, and marketing of products is considered, with emphasis on such basic factors as physical, biological, economic, political, and technological characteristics that affect changes presently occurring in the industry. Material for this study was obtained from various documentary sources, the most prominent being the Yearbooks of Fishery Statistics, published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and many issues of Commercial Fisheries Review, a periodical containing current information on world fisheries, published by the United States Departments of the Interior and Commerce. It was found that the pelagic fisheries have historically played a major role in the Icelandic fisheries and economy. During the mid-1960’s, pelagic fishery products constituted approximately one-half of all exports by volume and value. With recent declines in the herring catch, the fisheries and Iceland’s economy have experienced a severe economic setback. Herring catches in past years have proven to he cyclic in nature, as changes in the zone of convergence between warm and cold water currents have altered spawning and feeding habits. With changes in these habits, locations of fishing grounds have shifted to distances far removed from Iceland. Catches have also fallen drastically due to employment of more efficient catching techniques and a large increase of vessels in the purse seine fleet. Purse seiners have recently shifted to fishing capelin, which is found in great abundance in Icelandic waters and has proven to be a partial substitute for herring in the processing industry. Reduction plants have had their production of meal and oil drastically reduced with declining landings of herring. Greater emphasis is now being placed on landing herring fresh on ice in United Kingdom and West German ports as this brings a greater return for the industry. In addition, production of salted and frozen herring has declined. Processing sectors dependent on herring are experiencing reorganization, with plant closings and mergers being the major means of carrying this out. Governmental influence in pelagic fisheries is strong, as much of the industry is dependent on government financial support in the form of subsidies. Government actions on the fishery limits and conservation measures also play an important part in pelagic fisheries. Foreign exchange earnings have fallen with declining herring catches. Exports of capelin products have only partially alleviated difficulties suffered in this sector. Greater emphasis is now being placed on frozen fish fillet exports. Major markets for pelagic fishery exports have included the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the Common Market (EEC), and the Soviet Bloc. It is important that Iceland reorganize its fisheries to achieve maximum economic benefits. Closing of inefficient processing plants and elimination of unproductive units in the fleet are important orders of business. Perhaps the most significant change occurring in Iceland is the government's industrial diversification program. If successful, this program will reduce the dangerous overdependence on the fisheries for export earnings and employment.


Includes bibliographical references.||Includes maps.


ix, 91 pages




Northern Illinois University

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