MEPs back mackerel sanctions

12 Sep 2012
Atlantic mackerel. Credit: NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Atlantic mackerel. Credit: NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center

The European Commission now has the power to ban EU imports of fish from overfished stocks, following the regulation being approved on Wednesday.

It is hoped that such bans will discourage the “massive overfishing” of mackerel by Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

The regulation opens the way to trade sanctions against third countries that allow unsustainable fishing of fish and fishery products from stocks of common interest.

Rapporteur Pat the Cope Gallagher said: "While the regulation may be used against any third countries, the situation in the North East Atlantic is of immediate concern to all of us. Iceland has unilaterally increased its mackerel catch from 363 tonnes in 2005 to 147,000 tonnes in 2012. The Faroes' quota for mackerel has soared from 27,830 tonnes in 2009 to 149,000 tonnes in 2012".

Should these sanctions prove ineffective, the Commission may adopt additional measures, such as restricting the use of EU ports by vessels flying the flag of a non-compliant country or by vessels carrying fish from the overfished stock to the EU.

A country allowing ‘unsustainable fishing’ in this context is one that fails to cooperate in the management of a stock of common interest in compliance with international agreements, and fishes at or above the levels that can produce maximum sustainable yields (or does not adopt necessary fishing management measures).

Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “We welcome today’s vote by the European Parliament, although it is essential that the European Commission now moves quickly to implement the measures. As the biggest stakeholder in the EU mackerel fishery, UK and Scottish Ministers will have a vital role to play by putting pressure on the Commission to ensure it does enact the sanction measures as fast as possible.

“This is the third straight year without an international agreement on mackerel, which means the sustainability of this valuable fishery is being jeopardised. Hopefully, today’s vote will help ensure that Iceland and the Faroes recognise the seriousness of the situation and at long last they will return to the table to engage in meaningful negotiations.”

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