Fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead today welcomed the strong stance the EU has taken in condemning the behaviour of Iceland and Faroe in the ongoing mackerel dispute.
Mr Lochhead spoke on behalf of the UK at the EU AgriFish Council in Brussels, where he called for Iceland and Faroe to be reigned in following their failure to sign up to an international agreement to manage the mackerel stock, Scotland’s most valuable fishery.
Mr Lochhead said: “Today, Europe sent out a powerful message to Iceland and the Faroes that their irresponsible decision to set massive unilateral mackerel quotas out with international agreements will not be tolerated.
“It was important that I had the opportunity to impress upon the council the urgency of finding a solution over unilateral mackerel quotas, so that stocks can be protected and our fishing communities safeguarded. If every other country followed Iceland and the Faroes’ example then there would be no fish left in the sea.
“The council was unanimous in its condemnation of the actions taken by Iceland and the Faroes and it is quite clear that the reputations of both countries are at severe risk. We all recognise that it is in our interests to resolve the situation as soon as possible and reach an agreement, otherwise the rich mackerel stock will be endangered.
“However, Scotland was at the top table today for the first time to make the case that a deal must not be signed at any price and anti-conservation behaviour must not be rewarded.
“It is entirely sensible that Scotland, a key player in sustainable mackerel fishing in Europe, was represented at these talks and I was pleased to be able to speak up for our fishermen.”
Mr Lochhead said it was the first time a Scottish fisheries minister had travelled to an EU council with the green light to speak on behalf of the UK, which reflected the vital importance of the mackerel fishery to Scotland. As a result, Scotland’s credibility and profile received a boost.
Mr Lochhead is due to meet European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki on Friday during her first visit to Scotland.
He added: “With the UK’s ongoing support, I will press again for strong action from the EU if Iceland and the Faroes refuse to be reasonable in the formal negotiations in October. It’s critical that we have in place a fair deal, which does not reward unilateral actions but protects mackerel stocks.”