EU officials turn up heat on Iceland, Faeroes


Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
September 29, 2010

European politicians sent a powerful message to Iceland and the Faeroes this week, telling the island nations that their unilateral mackerel quotas will not be tolerated.

Speaking after a European Council meeting in Brussels on Monday, Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead, who demanded that action be taken against Iceland and the Faeroes, said the council was “unanimous in its condemnation” of the two countries’ mackerel quotas.

At the same meeting, European Union Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki said their mackerel quotas are “nothing short of unacceptable.”

“These actions defy all the hard efforts of our own industry in trying to protect this stock,” she said.

Iceland and the Faeroes prompted outcry from Scottish fishermen this summer when they ramped up their mackerel quotas. The Faeroes set its 2010 quota at 85,000 metric tons, more than three times last year’s quota, while Iceland adopted a 2010 quota of 130,000 metric tons. Scotland’s mackerel quota, managed under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, is also set at 130,000 metric tons.

Scottish fishermen say Iceland’s and the Faeroes’ mackerel quotas could potentially endanger the mackerel stock.

Mackerel was first on the meeting agenda, as participants tried to settle the escalating dispute. Damanaki suggested a long-term mackerel sharing agreement between all coastal states. But, crucially, the deal would need to take “the migration of mackerel into more northern waters into account,” she admitted. Damanaki stressed that Europe would not seek an agreement at “any cost.”

For years, the EU, Norway and the Faeroes have cooperated with a unified mackerel quota set and distributed between all three. Until recently, Iceland hardly fished for mackerel in its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone. However, a considerable increase in the mackerel stock in northern waters, which some scientists attribute to climate change and rising ocean temperatures, led the Icelandic and Faeroese governments to increase their mackerel quotas significantly this year.

But Ian Gatt, CEO of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, and a member of the Pelagic Regional Advisory Council, rejected claims that the current abundance of mackerel in northern waters is due to climatic change.

Attending a meeting of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee this week, Gatt said the increase is due to “careful stock management.” He urged the committee, composed of European Parliament members, to keep pressing the European Commission to ensure that “our fisheries entitlement is simply not given away.”

“We wanted the EC today to give a clear message to Iceland and the Faeroes that there will be serious implications if a satisfactory deal is not reached at next month’s talks, and we are pleased that they seem to be adopting a touch stance,” said Gatt in a prepared statement.

Coastal state consultations between the EU, Norway, Iceland and Faeroes are set for 12 to 14 October in London.

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