Living marine resources Anglo Icelandic Cod Wars as an analogy

Michael H. Glantz

Environmental and Societal Impacts Group National Center for Atmospheric Research Boulder, CO 80307, USA

In Iceland "fishing is politics." Iceland's economy has been largely dependent on fishing activities for economic development and employment as well as for the generation of foreign exchange. Therefore, any decision related to its fisheries generates high levels of interest in Iceland's political circles.

On four occasions since World War II, Iceland unilaterally extended its fishing jurisdiction. These extensions put Iceland in direct conflict with other nations with fleets fishing within these limits, principally those of Great Britain and West Germany (Fig. 12.1). While West Germany opposed these extensions, it took a less militant stand than the British and eventually acquiesced to Icelandic demands. Great Britain, however, opposed any precedent-setting extensions of coastal jurisdictions, especially those that might infringe on its activities on the designated high seas. The ensuing conflicts between Iceland and Great Britain are popularly referred to as the "Cod Wars."

Since the first Anglo-Icelandic conflict over cod in the early 1950s, the share of Iceland's foreign exchange generated by its fisheries declined from a high of about 90 percent in the early 1950s to about 80 percent at the end of the last Cod War in the mid-1970s. This still represented a sizable national dependence on the exploitation of one variable natural resource. Iceland was (and still is) the nation that is most dependent on the exploitation of fish populations, outdistancing its closest competitors by a wide margin (Fig. 12.2). Needless to say, great dangers are associated with dependence on one resource for export (i.e., export-led development; see, for example, Roemer, 1970). Disruption in the form

NORWEGIAN SEA

JAN MAYEN

FAEROE I.

GREENLAND SEA

Humberside

SHETLAND I>> ORKNEY I.

Keflavik

NORWEGIAN SEA

BERMANY

NORWAY \ denmark netherlands^

belgiurI ri

Hull france

GREENLAND SEA

Humberside

SHETLAND I>> ORKNEY I.

JAN MAYEN

FAEROE I.

HEBRIDES Glasgow Fleetwood iceland liverp00|

Aberdeen^?''Srimtby fa ireland

Keflavik

Fig. 12.1 Map of study area.

The chart clearly shows that no nation comes anywhere near Iceland in their dependence on fish and fish products for their economic existence. Fish and fish products make up less than 1% of the total export of Great Britain and West Germany, less than 2% of such great fishing nations as Canada and Japan, only 10.6% of Norway's export, but over 80% of Iceland's export is fish and fish products.

Fig. 12.2 National dependence on fish and fish products, as of 1969. (From Jonsson, 1972.)

of variability or change in any aspect of the production-marketing system (from spawning to capture to processing to pricing in the marketplace) would have adverse effects on Icelandic society.

The first section of this chapter discusses the analogy between the Anglo-Icelandic Cod Wars and the possible societal responses t?

ICELAND 81.9%

cf

NORWAY 10.6%

e

CANADA 1.9%

ff

JAPAN 1.8%

0.2%

VJ 0.2%

to changes in the marine environment that might be associated with a global warming of the atmosphere. The second section discusses the history of the Anglo-Icelandic conflicts over unilateral extensions by Iceland of its fishing jurisdiction. A summary of key issues that appear in each of these conflicts is presented in the third section. The fourth section provides lessons to societies on factors that can affect the effectiveness of future responses to changes in the availability or abundance of living marine resources. The concluding section provides comments on the limitations as well as strengths of using the "forecasting by analogy" approach to gain a glimpse of possible future societal responses to global warming impacts on the marine environment.

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