New Iceland-FAO partnership focuses on fisheries and Blue Growth

Three-year cooperation plan keys in on Port State Measures, gender, ghost gear and sustainable marine ecosystems

21 March 2019, Rome -The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Government of Iceland today agreed to work closely together to facilitate the design and implementation of programmes supporting the long-term conservation of living marine ecosystems and to unlock the potential of the world's marine and freshwater ecosystems.

The partnership is geared to provide financial and technical support to ongoing institutions and initiatives including the Port State Measures Agreement and to reduce the quantity of discarded fishing gear in the world's oceans. Other areas slated for support under the agreement are land restoration, gender issues and FAO's broader "Blue Growth" activities.

The three-year agreement lasts through 2022, the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture.

"Fisheries, the blue economy and healthy oceans are key areas for Iceland and for our development cooperatoin strategy, so we see this as a good way to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals," said Marie Erla Marelsdottir, Director for Development at Iceland's Ministry for Foreign Affairs, who signed the memorandum today.

Iceland's political support for FAO and fisheries has never been in short supply but I welcome he scale and formality brought by this agreement,"said Árni M. Mathiesen, Assistant Director-General of FAO's Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. 

FAO has a long and successful history of cooperation with Iceland, a country with a large exclusive economic zone (EEZ) spanning around 754,000 square kilometers in the North Atlantic Ocean, and considerable interests and expertise in fisheries affairs ranging from policy and regulatory issues to marketing and safety matters.

In terms of the new agreement, Iceland will provide financial support as well as in-kind assistance of a technical nature covering the broad spectrum of areas, and deploy experts to assist FAO in project identification, preparation, implementation, assessment and reviews as well as engage in capacity building exercises and desk studies.

The chief beneficiaries of the prospective collaboration will be the millions of people for whom oceans constitute a unique source of ecosystem services, biodiversity, food and livelihoods.

Treaties, SDGs and Oceans

The partnership is open to evolving priorities but primary themes are geared to delivery of several Sustainable Development Goals, notably No. 14 - "Life below water" - as well as 1 and 2, which call for the eradication of poverty and the achievement of Zero Hunger. Geographically, Less-Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States are priority targets.

One primary area for joint work is the implementation of the Port State Measures Agreement, whose objective is to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by preventing vessels engaged in such activities from using ports and landing their catches.

Iceland played an active role in negotiations leading up to the FAO-brokered agreement and was an early signatory. Around a third of the world's countries are now Parties to the treaty, which entered into force in 2016.

Also, Iceland is committed to helping FAO's work on "ghost fishing gear" such as fishing nets that are abandoned, lost or discarded at sea and each year add around 640,000 tonnes of plastic to the amount already floating around in the oceans today.

Iceland and FAO further agreed that the partnership framework will focus and strengthen work on the Blue Economy, which seeks to maximize environmentally sustainable social and economic benefits in coastal areas.

Investment in that effort will be channeled through FAO's Flexible Multipartner Programme Support Mechanism (FMM), bolstering the "Oceans and Blue Growth" component of this innovative and effective resource-pooling vehicle.

Iceland itself used fisheries as a key strategy of its own economic development, and has been successful in pursuing gender equity at home, which will be a central theme in its work with FAO in developing nations, said Marelsdottir.

Photo: ©Nikos Economopoulos/Magnum Phot
A man repairs his fishing nets in Tunisia, where FAO is supporting a Blue Growth project.