Fishermen are urging the European Union to impose sanctions on Iceland and Faroe by the summer after the firth round of talks over the disputed mackerel catch broke down in Reykjavik yesterday.
Chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association Ian Gatt described the final set of talks between the EU and Norway and Iceland and Faroe as a “wild goose chase”. Neither country showed any intention of seeking realistic compromise in the negotiations, he said.
At the talks the EU and Norway recognised that the change in migration patterns in recent years, due to the expansion of the stock, justified a modified sharing arrangement. However, officials pointed out that the Icelandic mackerel fishery increased from almost zero catch in 2006 to 156,802 tonnes in the 2011, while Faroese catch levels have increased six-fold over two years to 150,000 tonnes in 2011. If the EU and Norway had followed the same Icelandic and Faroese logic for the justification of setting quotas, pressure on the stock would “go totally out of control”, they said.
Mr Gatt said: “We condemn Iceland for inviting coastal states to Reykjavik for further talks when they had no intention of compromising or tabling a realistic solution to this mackerel catching dispute. It was simply a wild goose chase. We should also question why the Faroe Islands turn up to these talks when they contribute nothing to the debate, remain silent and are clearly intent on hammering the mackerel stock again this year.
“It is glaringly apparent that continual negotiation and compromise by the EU and Norway is not going to achieve an agreement with Iceland and the Faroes. Sanctions must now be implemented against Iceland and the Faroes before their summer mackerel fisheries begin.
“We know the European Parliament is making good progress with the sanction proposal but it will also need European fisheries ministers to endorse the sanction measures. Given that the UK is the largest stakeholder in the mackerel fishery, we call upon Scots fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead and UK fisheries minister Richard Benyon to throw their full weight behind this and ensure that sanctions are in place before these fisheries commence.”
Mr Gatt added that the SPFA also fully supported proposals from an Irish MEP to go further than the original European Commission and include all fish and fishery products in the proposed sanctions.
EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki and Lisbehth Berg-Hansen, Norway’s fisheries minister, said they were disappointed that Iceland and Faroe had not engaged.
“The joint EU/Norway proposals, made during the negotiations, offered Iceland and the Faroe Islands a considerably increased share,” said a commission spokesman. “They would also have allowed Icelandic and Faroese vessels to fish a significant part of their quota share in EU and Norwegian waters, where the value of the fish is significantly higher than in Icelandic or Faroese waters.
“While the union and Norway appreciate the key role of fisheries in the Icelandic and Faroese economies, Iceland and the Faroe Islands seem to neglect the dependency that coastal communities in the union and Norway have on the stock. Mackerel fishing has been an important source of income for decades in our coastal communities, for many thousands of fishermen operating both in large-scale and artisanal fisheries. Iceland is the newcomer in the mackerel fishery.
“The EU and Norway have built up the mackerel stock on a sustainable basis. This sustainability is being directly threatened by the recent development of new and unilateral fisheries by Iceland and the Faroe Islands.”