ICES advice may help Iceland in mackerel dispute

The International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has issued its latest stock advice for north-east Atlantic mackerel and has recommended a TAC of 889,886 tonnes - a 64% increase from the 2013 total.

Despite the increase in the percentage of the TAC advised, ICES has said that catches should not increase in relation to the last three years’ average. So this advice is based on what has actually been caught over the last three years - ICES says that its previous advice for mackerel was based on the management plan agreed by Norway, Faroe Islands, and the European Union (EU), but this year ICES was unable to give advice in relation to the plan as there was no accepted analytical assessment for mackerel.

ICES has said that this advice is seen as an interim measure, and that it will attempt to incorporate more stock size information into an appropriate assessment model as part of a benchmark process in 2014.

However, the advice has shown that mackerel stocks have expanded north-westwards to spawn and for the summer feeding migration. This is good news for Iceland – Iceland’s main point of argument in the mackerel dispute with the EU and Norway is that the country should have an increased quota, as more mackerel are now found in the country’s waters.

Iceland’s chief negotiator for mackerel catch quotas, Sigurgeir Þorgeirsson, said, “Today’s announcement from ICES is very good news and will provide a positive scientific platform for the Coastal States’ mackerel negotiations later this month. The advice for total allowable catch 2014 issued by ICES recognises the fact that a massive amount of mackerel inhabit the Northeast Atlantic, including in Iceland’s waters. It can hardly be doubted that the grossly increased north- and north-westerly migration of the stock into our rich feeding grounds, plays an important role in maintaining its size and healthy state. We believe strongly that mackerel catch quotas must be grounded in scientific data and an agreement on how to share the stock must reflect these realities."

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