Iceland facing sanctions over mackerel

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A meeting at the European Commission today is expected to begin the process of applying sanctions to Iceland, following the commitment made in December by Commissioner Maria Damanaki to address continued overfishing of the shared mackerel fishery.

Further measures to tackle the unilateral quotas declared by the Faroe Islands are expected in the coming months.

Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“Scotland’s priority is to find a solution to the mackerel crisis and reach a new four-party deal – between the EU, Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. This would be in the best interests of the future of the mackerel stock, which Scotland and others have carefully managed and fished sustainably.

“The EU remains willing to talk and reach an agreement, but all parties need to be reasonable and willing to compromise.

“We cannot do a deal at any cost or condone the irresponsible behaviour of Iceland and the Faroes. Therefore it is right that the EU is taking forward proposals for sanctions.”

In November last year Iceland walked away from talks to put in place a new international agreement for the mackerel fishery and in December Iceland set themselves an increased mackerel catch for 2011 of 147,000 tonnes – the fourth year in a row Iceland has set unilateral quotas outwith international agreements and against established scientific advice.

The European Commissioner has also proposed bringing forward regulations that would enable similar measures to be applied against the Faroes Islands. In 2010 the Faroes set a mackerel quota of 85,000 tonnes, more than three times their previous total allowable catch, and it is anticipated they will set an even higher catch for 2011.

The value of mackerel to the Scottish economy was £135 million in 2009 – the fleet’s most valuable stock – and directly supports around 2,500 jobs.