EU mackerel sanctions urged for Iceland

Sept. 7, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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LONDON, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- Scotland is urging the European Union to slap sanctions on Iceland after negotiations over Northern Atlantic mackerel quotas broke down this week.

EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki organized Monday's talks in London, which were attended by Scotland's fisheries partner Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

The talks came as negotiations on mackerel harvest quotas for 2013 are to go into effect next month amid complaints by Norway and Scotland that Iceland and the Faroes have unilaterally raised their catches to "unsustainable" levels.

"Recent years show that Iceland and the Faroe Islands have a track record in demonstrating a lack of willingness to compromise and reach a fair deal for mackerel, therefore it is disappointing but sadly predictable that these latest talks have failed to offer a new way forward," Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said.

"That's why we need the EU to press on with its long-promised sanction proposals and implement them as soon as possible."

Damanaki said the London mackerel meeting was "inconclusive" because "the respective positions remain too far apart."

She and Norwegian Minister of Fisheries Lisbeth Berg-Hansen issued a statement saying, "We are extremely disappointed at the inconclusive outcome of today's ministerial meeting on mackerel management. We will continue working closely together on this key issue, by all necessary means."

The Faroes last year set a quota for mackerel at 85,000 tons -- more than three times its previous allowable catch -- while Iceland raised its quota from 130,000 to 146,818 tons, The Scotsman reported.

The countries claim their research indicates summertime supplies have become much more abundant but the move nonetheless triggered blockades by Scottish trawlermen seeking to stop Faroese vessels from landing their catches in Scotland.

The increased catch pushed the total number of mackerel being fished across the North Atlantic to about 900,000 tons -- around 260,000 tons more than recommended by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, The Guardian said.

There have been no agreed-upon North Sea mackerel quotas since 2010, which Lochhead has said is endangering the mackerel fishery in the North Atlantic -- Scotland's highest-value fish stock and Norway's second after cod.

Scotland has since been seeking EU sanctions against Iceland and the Faroes but none have so far materialized.

Icelandic Minister of Industries and Innovation Steingrimur Sigfusson, who also attended the London meeting, agreed it resulted "in scant if any progress towards resolving the dispute," but added, "for this, Iceland bears no more responsibility than others, quite the contrary."

He said Iceland is willing accept "a somewhat smaller share of the total catch than at present" in return for access to fishing in waters of other states, thus making it possible to "reduce the catch towards the level of scientific recommendations, ensuring sustainable utilization and the long-term protection of the stock."

Iceland, Sigfusson said, wants to conduct "joint research" on the mackerel stock with Norway and the European Union and is willing to reduce its catch by at least 20 percent if others do the same.

Instead, he said, "Lisbeth Berg-Hansen still chooses the course of placing all the blame on Iceland and the Faroes, when the truth of the matter is that Norway's inflexible position is one of the main reasons for the lack of progress at the meeting in London."

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