Minister’s harsh words for ‘bizarre’ EU over fish quota sanctions
The EU has been criticised over the “glacial” pace of delivering sanctions on Faroe and Iceland over mackerel quotas.
Speaking during a visit to the NAFC in Scalloway today UK fisheries minister Richard Benyon voiced his “frustration” over the time it is taking to send out a strong message to the island nations.
He insisted the EU needed to “act fast” if the valuable fishery was to be protected.
The EU wants to ban imports of mackerel and other fish from Iceland and Faroe, following huge increases in mackerel quotas by both nations.
The decision to impose sanctions came after repeated attempts to reach a negotiated agreement came to nothing. But no sanctions are yet in place, despite the European Parliament approving the measures in September.
Mr Benyon said: “I feel the frustration that others do with the glacial speed of the implementation of these sanctions.
“The European Union has a bizarre and over-complicated system for bringing these in, which requires the European Parliament to agree it, and it’s just not the way to do business.
“In these circumstances, you need to be fast on your feet and impose sanctions that are meaningful.
“It is our most valued fishery. It is the biggest, by value, fishery and it risks going the way of blue whiting.”
He stressed he had put pressure on Iceland and Faroe “relentlessly” to bring them back into line. But he refused to predict how long it would take before sanctions are imposed.
Mr Benyon added other European countries had benefited “indirectly” from Iceland and Faroe’s behaviour by importing their mackerel.
“These are through perfectly legitimate businesses, but I believe sanctions should stop this.”
His visit came as North Sea cod dominated the first round of fish quota talks in Brussels today. A 20 per cent cut in quotas has been recommended as part of the cod recovery plan. Mr Benyon heavily criticised the plan, slamming “ludicrous effort reductions”.
“There is some really good news on cod stocks generally, but we are stuck with a poorly thought through management plan which has the perverse effect of seeing fishermens’ livelihoods threatened.”
Mr Benyon also endorsed changes to the Common Fisheries Policy, calling for an “eco-system basis” which sees all relevant countries working out key details of fishery management.
“But the ludicrous situation exists where I can sit at two o’ clock in the morning with an official from the commission, as I did last December, discussing what sort of eliminator panel should sit where in which sort of mesh-sized net.”
Mr Benyon was accompanied by isles MP Alistair Carmichael. He said: “As we move towards reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, input from the industry is critical. The Northern Isles are home to some of the biggest players in the UK fisheries market and it is only right that our local industry have the chance to put their concerns to the minister directly.”