One of the stories I tell my friends about my recent trip to Iceland is that, at most of the seafood restaurants where I ate, I could look out the window and find ships of the fishing fleet. Here, I am standing outside the Cafe Edinborg in Isafjöordur, where I had the most flavorful and moist halibut of my life. Sure enough, right in front of me was the fishing trawler Stefnir ready to sail. According to a bus driver with whom I was speaking, the ship was idle for a long time because it had caught its quota of fish early and was only now ready to work on its next period’s quota. You can find out more about these quotas, which are big news throughout the island and strictly enforced, by visiting the website of the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture.
When roughly half of the gross national product is attributable to the fishing fleet, it behooves Iceland to carefully guard fishing stocks so that the tiny nation doesn’t suddenly find itself out of luck as a result of overfishing.
From the 1950s to the 1970s, Iceland actually fought several engagements with Britain because the latter’s trawlers ignored Iceland’s territorial water claims. You can read about the so-called Cod Wars on Wikipedia. In Reykjavik, I actually saw one of the Coast Guard ships involved in the hostilities (see below).
Iceland does not have an army nor a navy, but it takes its Coast Guard seriously. How else can it continue to maintain its fishing presence in the territorial waters against the encroaching vessels of other countries?