Damanaki: Iceland mackerel quota ‘positive step’

A spokesman for Maria Damanaki, European commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, has called Iceland’s newest self-imposed mackerel quota “a positive step” toward finally declaring an end to what has been dubbed the “mackerel wars.”

Iceland announced on 22 April that it will set its 2014 mackerel catch quota at 147,574 metric tons (MT), which falls in line with an agreement signed in March between the European Union, Norway and the Faroe Islands.

“We could now be very close to reaching a deal which includes all four Coastal States: the European Union, the Faroe Islands, Norway and Iceland,” said Damanaki spokesman Helene Banner. “We therefore urge Iceland to join the other three Parties at the negotiating table at the earliest opportunity so that we can work out the terms of a full four-Party Coastal State arrangement for mackerel."

For years, Norway and the E.U. have argued the Faroe Islands and Iceland have been overfishing mackerel and herring. Both Iceland and the Faroes have maintained that newer assessments of stocks of both species proves that the fish have migrated north into their waters, making it safe to fish them more heavily.

The parties held multiple negotiation sessions that ended in a deadlock. The dispute came to a head in the fall of 2013, when the European Commission issued trade bans against the Faroes, which is technically a part of Denmark but in this dispute was regarded as an independent entity.

The sanctions prompted all parties to return to negotiations, and in March Danish fisheries officials announced a new agreement between the E.U., Norway and the Faroes.

That agreement created a total allowable catch (TAC) for all of Europe of 1.24 million MT. At the time, the agreement did not include Iceland, but there was 186,000 MT that, according to the Danish fisheries ministry, “has not yet been placed.”

According to the 22 April decision by the Icelandic government, the 2014 quota of 147,574 MT lies well within the unplaced portion. In a statement, Icelandic Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson said the new quota “supports Iceland’s efforts to preserve the mackerel stock,” but added he was disappointed that Iceland appeared to have been left out of the March agreement.

“We were willing to negotiate our share as a part of a full coastal state agreement,” he said. “We need to continue to work as partners, first and foremost to secure the sustainable utilization of the mackerel stock with longterm interests in mind. Iceland is, as always, ready to participate in a balanced arrangement based on scientific evidence.”

In a statement, the commission said, “Regrettably, Iceland was unable to come on board at that time,” but the March agreement “made room for it to join at a later stage.”


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