Area closures

Area closures


A map with information on spawning area closures around

Iceland, click on map for larger picture, only available in Icelandic.

Source: Directorate of fisheries


A map with information on temporary area closures around Iceland, click on map for latest temporary area closures, only available in Icelandic.

Source: Directorate of fisheries


Number of temporary area closures

Source: The Marine Research Institute

Large areas are closed for fishing in Icelandic waters, some of them temporarily and others permanently. Areas are most often closed because of a large abundance of juvenile fish or in order to protect spawning fish. Some of the areas are closed for certain gear, most often bottom trawl or longline. Smaller areas are often closed by immediate action of the Marine Research Institute and the Directorate of Fisheries, most often due to abundance of juvenile fish.

Permanent closures

Off Northwest and North coast of Iceland, fishing by bottom trawl, midwater trawl and Danish seine is not allowed within 12 miles from a line drawn across the mouth of fjords and bays. Off the East, South and West coast, bottom trawling is permitted according to vessel size and engine power, with larger vessels (over 42 m) not having access within 12 miles, but the smaller vessels (less than 29 m) in some areas up to 4miles. There are also extensive nursery areas outside these boundaries permanently closed for fishing.

Seasonal closures

Many areas along the south shore are seasonally closed to trawlers and/or Danish seiners. Fjords and bays in other areas are as well, these seasonal closures usually last about half a year each, but are of course variable.

The most extensive seasonal closure is the spawning time closures. All fisheries are closed within 12 miles along the south and west shore and within 6 miles along the north and east shore for two weeks during Easter to protect the spawning of cod.

Temporary closures

A temporary closure system has been in force since 1976 with the objective to protect juvenile fish and reduce the incentives to discard. Fishing is prohibited for at least two weeks in areas where the number of undersized fish in the catches has been observed by inspectors to exceed a certain percentage. If, in a given area, there are several consecutive quick closures the Minister of Fisheries can with regulations close the area for longer time, forcing the fleet to operate in other areas. Inspectors from the Directorate of Fisheries supervise these closures in collaboration with the Marine Research Institute, sometimes the Coast Guard raises the alert.

In the past 27 years, about 2000 temporary closures have come into effect, mostly off the Westfjords. Most of the closures concern cod fishing (63%) and often they have been limited to bans on bottom trawling or longlining.

Selectivity devices

There are several selectivity measures, such as a mesh size of 135 mm or equivalent. A sorting grid is mandatory to avoid by-catch of juvenile fish in the shrimp fisheries and devices for excluding juveniles in the groundfish fisheries are also mandatory in certain areas.