Iceland accuses EU, Norway of ‘bullying’
Iceland’s fisheries minister lashed out at threats of sanctions by the E.U. over mackerel quotas, accusing the larger countries of “bullying” Iceland and ignoring scientific data on mackerel stocks.
The statement, from Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, Iceland Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, follows a statement by Maria Damanaki, European commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, where Damanaki said she would decide by the end of the month whether to impose sanctions against Iceland.
"Iceland continues to call for a fair, reasonable solution to the dispute over mackerel catch levels,” Jóhannsson said. “The threats of sanctions by the EU are counterproductive and excessive, particularly in light of the EU and Norway's own overfishing of mackerel. Attempts to intimidate Iceland by proposing illegal sanctions will not settle this important and sensitive matter.”
Iceland and the Faroe Islands have come under fire from the commission for inflating their quotas for mackerel, an act that critics charge is endangering mackerel stocks.
Iceland and the Faroes have countered by claiming they have data which shows the mackerel stocks have migrated northward.
An agreement by several coastal states in late 2012, Jóhannsson said, did not take into account the movement of the stocks. With larger populations off Iceland’s coast, he said, it makes more sense for the E.U. and Norway to lower their quotas.
“Over the past year, we have repeatedly offered proposals that would reduce the Coastal States' catch levels based on independent scientific research, including guidance from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea,” he said. “The EU and Norway have rejected all of these proposals. How can we resolve this issue if they will not negotiate?”
Jóhannsson said independent studies show up to 30 percent of Europe’s mackerel stock is now in Icelandic waters, yet he argued that the E.U. “chose to ignore” this data, and claimed 90 percent of the quota.
“We continue to hope that science-based solutions, not bullying of smaller countries by larger ones, can be the answer,” Jóhannsson said.