Aquaculture for all
The Fish Site presents: The Vienna Sessions - Conversations about aquaculture. 9 video interviews with aquaculture thought leaders. Watch here.

Iceland And US Seafood Leaders Gather In New York

Economics +1 more

ICELAND - Leaders of the Iceland and US seafood industries gathered in New York on April 14, 2011, to provide a snapshot of the Icelandic fishing industry, its importance to the country's economy, and the benefits it provides to American consumers.

In 2010, marine products accounted for about 50 percent of Iceland's total export value, with approximately 80 percent sold to European countries. According to a study by Islandsbanki, 2010 per capita seafood consumption by Icelanders is the highest in the world - 220.5 lbs. (90.94 kg.) annually, well ahead of Japan at 133.5 lbs. (60.55 kg).

The conference, held at The Union League Club, was hosted by the Icelandic-American Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Islandsbanki, Icelandic USA, Inc., and Intrafish Media. The conference chair was Aevar Agnarsson, CEO, Icelandic USA, Inc. Drew Cherry, Editorial Director, Intrafish Media, moderated the panel.

"Once our financial affairs are resolved, Iceland will be ready to grow again," said Fridrik Mar Baldursson, Dean, School of Business, Reykjavik University. "We have a well-educated workforce, plenty of natural resources, the right physical and social infrastructure, and prices have never been as competitive, which, given appropriate economic policies, is expected to promote exports and economic growth over the medium term."

Mr Baldursson continues, "The seafood industry will continue to be the bulwark of the economy - the fundamentals are very good."

John Connelly, President, National Fisheries Institute, says demographics are working in favor of increased seafood sales in the US. "Older Americans, seeking the Ponce de Leon fountain of youth, are attracted to the health benefits of seafood consumption." Connelly also pointed to the popularity of seafood among fast-growing ethnic minority groups, and its quick and easy preparation, especially for busy two-income families.

He praised Iceland's commitment to sustainability because, "it's the right thing to do, not because it's attractive to consumers. We can meet the seafood needs of American families today without affecting the ability of future generations to enjoy the healthy benefits of seafood ... and Iceland has shown the path for seafood sustainability."

Jon Gardar Gudmundsson, Senior Advisor, Glacier, subsidiary of Islandsbanki, pointed to the value of recent advances in aquaculture. "Seafood is one of the world's primary sources of high quality protein, but with a stagnant wild fish supply, we must look towards aquaculture to meet future needs."

Mr Gudmundsson also spoke about how small the average seafood company is in comparison to the average company in the food industry. "The Americas, especially North America, have lagged behind in the consolidation of the industry, but there is evidence of that starting to change."

In December 2010, Icelandic cod fisheries were certified as "Responsible and well managed" by the independent accredited third party certification body Global Trust Certification Ltd. of Ireland. This certification is the result of an Icelandic initiative to develop an international approach offering a credible choice for fisheries. Dr. Kristjan Thorarinsson, Chairman, Iceland Responsible Fisheries Technical Committee, believes conservation and sustainable use are keys to effective fisheries management. Certification confirms responsible fisheries management and good treatment of marine resources.

"Large seafood buyers welcome independent certification which they can use to promote responsibly sourced seafood," said Dr Thorarinsson.