No agreement on mackerel

21 Feb 2012
Iceland and the Faroes will set now their own quotas unilaterally

Iceland and the Faroes will set now their own quotas unilaterally

The fifth round of negotiations on the North-East Atlantic mackerel fishery between the European Union, Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands ended last week after failing to secure international agreement.

Iceland and the Faroes will set now their own quotas unilaterally.

The joint EU/Norway proposals, made during the negotiations, offered Iceland and the Faroe Islands a considerably increased share, and would also have allowed Icelandic and Faroese vessels to fish a significant part of their quota share in EU and Norwegian waters, where the value of the fish is significantly higher than in Icelandic or Faroese waters.

However, a statement from Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, and Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, Norwegian Minister of Fisheries, said that “it is particularly disappointing that neither Iceland nor the Faroe Islands really engaged in the negotiation process. It is regrettable that neither Iceland nor the Faroe Islands have made proposals, which would have respected the zonal attachment principles and historical fishing, on which stock sharing arrangements have been negotiated by those same Parties in the past.”

They said that the EU and Norway recognise that the change in the migration pattern in recent years justifies a modified sharing arrangement. However Icelandic mackerel fisheries have increased from almost zero catch in 2006 to catches of 156,802 tonnes in the Icelandic Zone in 2011, whilst Faroese catch levels have increased six-fold over two years to 150,000 tonnes in 2011. The EU and Norway are calling on Iceland and the Faroe Islands to reduce their current unsustainable fishing levels.

Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead has warned that a third straight year without agreement is a dangerous strategy that is risking the future of a valuable fishery.

“The lack of progress this week has been very worrying, with the Faroes in particular demonstrating a lack of willing to reach a deal. We now expect Faroes and Iceland will continue with grossly inflated quotas that are all about short-term selfish gain.

“We recognise mackerel stocks are currently present in seas further west and Iceland has a right to a share. However, it’s unacceptable to opportunistically pursue these massive quotas. The Faroes, meanwhile, don’t even have the capacity to catch so many mackerel, with foreign vessels invited into their waters to pillage the stock on their behalf.”

Simon Coveney, Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine said, "The mackerel stock, which had been managed in a sustainable manner for many years by the EU and Norway, is now at risk of collapse as a direct result of the actions of Iceland and the Faroes. The actions of Iceland and the Faroe Islands of pursuing an unrestrained mackerel fishery since 2008 with total disregard for responsible management and the scientific advice for the stock may result, if not challenged, in the collapse of the stock which will destroy the livelihoods of fishing communities dependant on this fishery in Ireland in both the fishing fleet and the many fish processing plants in Ireland."

He said he fully supports the EU Commission's proposal to apply sanctions to countries that engage in irresponsible fishing practices and will be working for the early adoption of these measures which are currently under discussion in Council and the European Parliament.

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