Strenuous efforts will be made to monitor the line between Faroese and Scottish waters, it was revealed today.
Fisheries protection vessels will make close monitoring of the line a top priority to prevent – and respond to – any incursion by Faroese vessels.
The pledge came from fisheries minister Richard Lochhead following moves by Iceland and Faroe to aggressively fish for mackerel, threatening the sustainability of the species.
Mr Lochhead, who today met members of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “We cannot allow disregard for conservation to threaten the sustainability of Scotland’s most valuable catch and I know we have UK government support for this.
“We have been pressing the EU to apply sanctions to Iceland and Faroes for acting in a way which flouts international fishery agreements. With the onset of the mackerel fishing season there is now an urgent need to apply such measures without delay and I urge the commission to act swiftly on this.
“This needs to happen alongside continuation of talks to put in place a new international agreement for the mackerel stock.
“In the meantime, monitoring the line between Scottish and Faroese waters is vital to safeguard our mackerel stocks, and this has been a key focus of my talks today with the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association.
“In the absence of an access agreement, the Faroese pelagic fleet cannot fish in EU waters and it is important that we do not allow them to plunder our waters as part of their outrageous mackerel grab.
“Scotland’s overwhelming priority remains securing a new deal with the other nations who share the mackerel fishery, to protect the sustainability of the stock and the long-term viability of the industry.
“But in the absence of a deal, I have assured the SPFA that Marine Scotland Compliance will make monitoring the line a top priority.”
In March Faroe and Iceland walked away from a seventh round of talks with the EU and Norway to seek a four-party deal to ensure that the shared mackerel stock is fished sustainably.
Faroe now intends to catch 150,000 tonnes of mackerel – a 75 per cent increase on the 85,000 tonnes limit it set last year and five times more than its share under the last international agreement in 2009.
Iceland, meanwhile, has set itself a total allowable catch (TAC) for mackerel of around 155,000 tonnes – representing 22 per cent of the overall recommended TAC for the fishery and a massive increase on the five per cent share allocated under the previous agreement.
The value of mackerel to the Scottish economy was £135 million pounds in 2009, making it the fleet’s most valuable stock.