Sunday is yet another holiday in Iceland.
But not a Christian one, this time.
Sunday sports little white-haired kids with ice cream cones in one hand and waving the Icelandic flag with the other, parades march down near every main street and a multitude of speeches will be heard throughout the country.
See, it’s Fisherman’s Day.
And fishermen really do need appreciation in Iceland.
According to a yearly report made by the ministry of Fishery, fish and fish products accounted for 60 per cent of all exported goods from Iceland last year.
(In comparison, big industry’s part was 22 per cent and other industry 12 per cent.)
In 2002, about 11,700 persons worked in the fishing sector, or around seven per cent of the total workforce.
About half of them were in fishing and the other half in processing.
In 2003, Iceland was the 12th largest fishing nation in the world with about two per cent of world catches.
It is, therefore, self evident that fish and fish products are still the most important industry in Iceland.
The continental shelf around Iceland, where the warm Gulf Stream meets the cold nutrient currents from the Arctic, offers very favourable conditions for various kinds of marine life, and are rich fishing grounds, offering plentiful schools of cod, haddock, saithe, redfish, herring and capelin.
Until the 19th century, fish processing in Iceland consisted almost exclusively of stockfish production.
Salt-fish production began in the early 19th century and in the 1930s, freezing of fish became an option in Iceland.
During the Second World War, Icelandic fishing expanded greatly, as many other European countries were lamed by war.
By 1950, the freezing industry had become the most important component of the Icelandic fish processing industry, as it still is.
Icelanders have long protected the fishing territory strictly and control both their own and other nations’ fish catches tightly in the 322-kilometre exclusive fishing grounds of Iceland.
In recent years, total Icelandic catches have ranged from 1.5 to 2.1 million tonnes.
The total catch by the Icelandic fleet was 1,724,000 tonnes in 2004, a decrease from 1,980,000 tonnes in 2003 or 14.85 per cent decrease between the two years.
According to Statistics Iceland, the industry is rather stable, and though fewer boats are now in the country, the export market keeps growing.
At the end of 2005, the total number of fishing vessels, registered at the Icelandic maritime administration, was 1,752, or fewer than 72 in the year before.
These included decked and undecked vessels as well as trawlers.
“The total amount of marine product exports in 2004 was 828 thousand tonnes, a total value of ISK 121.7 billions. This is an increase from the previous year of 2.3 per cent in quantity and seven per cent in value,” says the Statistics Iceland website.
Half of the revenue from exported marine products is for frozen products, but the highest export revenues were from uncured salted cod.
Atlantic cod is the most important of all the marine resources in Iceland.
In 2002 it represented 37 per cent of the catch value and 38 per cent of the total seafood export value.
The main Icelandic fish products are fillets, canned seafood, retail packs, laminated blocks and whole-frozen fish. Most of the export goes to Europe.
The Icelandic fishing fleet’s productivity is much higher than that of other North Atlantic countries, with catch value per fisherman nearly three times that in any other country.
This is largely thanks to improved equipment design and product development, along with the intense research and development that go into all areas of fishing and fish processing.
Iceland is a world leader in various areas of production technology, and the fishing industry takes a large space here.
And, of course, further development of fish-processing technology continues to lead to higher output, productivity and product yield.
Digital technology such as ultra-accurate weighing equipment, graders and portioning machines — that have been adapted for use on fishing vessels — do their bit to improve the industry, as well as dynamic flow lines and digital production control systems.
Fishing gear, like trawl nets, trawl doors and fishing boats, and packaging, such as tubs and boxes, are also made in Iceland and bought both by Icelandic fishing boats as well as foreign ones, adding to the importance of the industry to the economy.
And the same goes for safety equipment and protective clothing.
Meanwhile, happy Fisherman’s Day!