Scottish fishing leaders will today urge European ministers to impose sanctions against Iceland and Faroe for their over-fishing of mackerel.
The issue of mackerel stocks is on the agenda at the European Fish Council meeting in Brussels and the European Commission will be lobbied to use the occasion to finally impose sanctions against the two countries.
For some time Iceland and Faroe have been significantly over-fishing the north-east Atlantic mackerel stock, in breach of agreements.
Although measures for trade sanctions on imports of certain fishery products from Iceland and Faroe have already been agreed upon, the EC has not yet implemented the plan.
The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association (SPFA) says the time for “heel dragging” is over and the EC must act now, especially since the mackerel catching season is about to begin.
SPFA chief executive Ian Gatt said: “We are becoming increasingly exasperated by the failure of the EU to impose sanctions and it is extremely disappointing that they are dragging their feet on this issue.
“This dispute has dragged on now for four years and we are still no nearer reaching a fair and equitable deal due to the intransigence of Iceland and Faroe. It is vital that the Scottish and UK fisheries ministers press the commission to impose a sanctions package.
“Sanctions would send a clear and unequivocal message that the actions of Iceland and Faroe will not be tolerated by the responsible international community. We believe that the imposition of sanctions would help focus minds and provide the spur that ensures Iceland and Faroe return to the negotiating table so as to reach a fair and balanced deal.”
This call has been taken up by isles MP Alistair Carmichael, who is also pushing for EU action to stop overfishing of mackerel by Iceland and Faroe.
Mr Carmichael is also urging ministers at the Brussels meeting to take action against the two countries to prevent them overfishing. He said the ongoing problem of breaching agreed quotas must be tackled.
He said: “I urge the Council of Ministers to take action and impose sanctions on those who continue to fish irresponsibly. This saga has been allowed to carry on too long already.
“Conservation groups like the Marine Conservation Society are already calling for people not to consume mackerel. Action is needed now before fish levels become critical and all nations involved need to focus on the long term management of a sustainable solution.
“The pelagic fleet is particularly important to Shetland and we stand to be hardest hit if unsustainable fisheries practices impact adversely on our stock levels. If the only way to get these two nations back into the negotiations about the long-term future of mackerel fishing is to impose sanctions then that is what we must do.”