Talks between the EU, Norway and Faroe over mackerel quotas in Copenhagen broke down last night without an agreement, leaving the EU and Norway to try to come to their own arrangements today.
The talks were the final opportunity for the EU and Norway to forge an international coastal states management agreement for mackerel. Their failure means that the Faroese will now join Iceland in setting their own unilateral quotas for 2011 in a move that could jeopardise the sustainability of the important mackerel stock in the north-east Atlantic.
Voicing his deep frustration and anger at the collapse, Scottish fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead said that after Iceland walked out of four-way talks last month it had been hoped that a three-way deal could be reached.
“I am angry and extremely disappointed that these vital three-way talks in Copenhagen have broken down. Given this year’s situation where the Faroese and Iceland had set their own massive unilateral catch quotas outwith international agreements, we were all determined to find a way of resolving this intolerable situation for 2011.
“The EU has done as much as it can to try and work with the Faroes to bring it into a deal that could be accepted by all parties, but it is clear to me that the Faroes are not being reasonable and seem willing to bring about the demise of this valuable stock by their inflexibility.
“What is even worse is that the Faroese are not even taking this mackerel for the benefit of their own pelagic fleet, but to use as currency with Russia. Combined with Iceland’s activities, the situation we are now facing could be potentially disastrous for the mackerel stock which Scotland and others have so carefully managed for the last 10 years. We are being made to suffer for the selfish behaviour of others. It is unacceptable for individual parties to pursue short-term gain by overfishing, putting at risk the sustainability of the mackerel stock. Such a situation benefits no-one.
“It is important now that we work with the UK and the EU to take strong action in order to make it clear that this type of behaviour is not acceptable.”
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “It is unbelievable that after four rounds of negotiations it was not possible to reach an agreement due to the unrealistic demands of the Faroese, and before then, Iceland.
“We would all like more fish but we need to abide by international agreements to ensure that the mackerel stock is harvested responsibly. We utterly condemn the unsustainable fishing practices that the Faroese and Icelanders are now about to embark upon.
“The EU and Norway made the right decision in not buckling under Faroese demands for an unreasonable amount of mackerel. We now call upon the European Commission to take immediate sanctions against Iceland and the Faroes in the trade of pelagic fish.”