Europêche calls for action against Norway, Faroes for overfishing mackerel

Published on
September 8, 2021
An Atlantic mackerel sits on a stone

Immediate action needs to be taken to stop Norway and the Faroe Islands from their “massive overfishing” of the Northeast Atlantic mackerel stock, Europêche – the representative body for E.U. fishermen – has said.

Europêche is urging the European Commission and European Council to act swiftly and decisively on what it calls “reckless and irresponsible behavior,” by using instruments at its disposal including trade measures and the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Regulation.

Earlier this year, Norway and the Faroes unilaterally increased their share in the mackerel fishery by 55 percent each. Europêche said that now the Norwegian and Faroese fleets, as well as those of Iceland, Russia, and Greenland are targeting mackerel with as many vessels as possible. It said this is possible because to a large extent, the fisheries also take place in international waters.

If this effort continues with the coastal states fully utilizing their inflated, unjustified quota shares, the total mackerel catch will be 42 percent higher than the scientific advice that was agreed to by all parties in November 2020, Europêche said.

“The E.U. cannot and should not let this form of extreme overfishing continue by these coastal states, which is contrary to U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and particularly the 1995 Stradling Stocks Agreement,” Gerard van Balsfoort, chair of the E.U. pelagic industry organized under the banner of EAPO and Europêche, said.

Balsfoort said Norway’s fishing decisions are particularly egregious.

“I find it incredible that at the same time as acting in such an irresponsible manner, they portray themselves to be [a] sustainable and responsible nation. There is no way Norway can defend itself for taking almost 300,000 metric tons [MT], or 35 percent of the scientifically advised total mackerel quota of 852,000 MT, and then fish most of it in the international waters outside their 200 miles zone,” Balsfoort said. “Norway happily continues to export huge amounts of their seafood, including farmed salmon, to the E.U. market as if this is business as usual. The E.U. must immediately start using its power as the world’s largest import market for seafood and take action to stop such reckless and irresponsible behavior.”

In June, Europêche began calling on consumers to boycott Norwegian seafood products, saying the country had taken advantage of the altered fisheries governance in the Northeast Atlantic created by Brexit to unlawfully grab E.U. cod and mackerel quotas. It said that the unilateral quota increases could endanger the sustainability of the stock in the next couple of years, and that unless a strong signal is sent from the E.U., then they could grab more E.U. quota for these and other fish species.

Europêche represents around 45,000 fishing vessels and 80,000 fishermen. It also comprises 16 member organizations from 10 European countries.  

Photo courtesy of Espen E/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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