Average 3 year growth in: 1) GDP per capita (Gross Domestic Production) and 2) Fishing industry (export value).

Source: Statistics Iceland_1, Statistics Iceland_2


The relative size of the fishing sector (Gross production, year 2000 = 100)

Source: Statistics Iceland


Percentage breakdown of total Gross Domestic Production (GDP) by fishing and fish processing

Source: Statistics Iceland

The Icelandic economy has been characterized by a steady GDP growth, although with fluctuations. Comparison of growth in the fishing industry and total GDP reveals a rather stable relationship. Fluctuations in the export value of marine products show up clearly in GDP growth until the mid 1990s; e.g. large investments in the fishing fleet after the Second World War, and growth in herring fisheries in the 1950s and 1960s. The subsequent collapse of the herring fisheries caused a decline in GDP growth in 1967.

From the mid 1990s, this relationship has been breaking up; growth in marine export decreases when GDP rises and vice versa. This trend is partly due to the increasing importance of the service sector, as known from other developed economies.

Growth of the fishing industry

From 1973 to the late 1980s, the growth of the fishing industry as a whole was substantial; i.e. the internal size of the sector increased. Then the industry remained fairly stable until 2002, when it declined sharply. These changes were largely controlled by the development of the fisheries. Fish processing has, on the other hand, been rather stable since the late 1970s but has also declined in the past few years.

The contribution of the fishing industry to GDP gradually declined over the same period; from a maximum of around 17% in 1978 to 8% in 2008. The fish processing production had turned down, while the fisheries sector remained largely stable at around 8% until the beginning of the 21st century.

The fishing industry is, nevertheless, fundamental to the Icelandic economy. If the whole marine sector had been removed in 2008, the effect would have been considerably stronger than the aforementioned 8% share. This can be explained by the side effects created by industry. Many auxiliary companies have developed around the fishing industry, providing supporting services and products.

References and further information

Hall et al 2007

For full citation and further information on the economy in general see this page

Jón Þorvaldur Heiðarsson, University of Akureyri

Hörður Sævaldsson, University of Akureyri