Iceland’s mackerel landings may be blocked from entering European Union ports, as the dispute over quotas is set to intensify.
Participants in the European Economic Area (EEA) — comprising the 27 EU member states plus Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein — will meet on Friday to decide on a ban.
According to Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson, a member of the European Parliament’s fisheries committee, EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki will inform the EEA that the EU is poised to block all mackerel landings into EU ports from Icelandic vessels.
“The blockade of our ports to Iceland’s pelagic fleet will take immediate effect following tomorrow’s meeting of the EEA joint committee,” Stevenson declared in a statement on Thursday.
But Damanaki’s spokesperson clarified to SeafoodSource on Thursday that while the ban will be on the agenda of the EEA joint committee on Friday, the date of implementation has yet to be confirmed.
In mid-2010, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands sparked fury among Scottish fishermen after setting unilateral mackerel quotas far higher than catches in previous years. The Faeroes set its 2010 mackerel quota at 85,000 metric tons, more than three times the 2009 quota, while Iceland targeted 130,000 metric tons of mackerel last year. The entire EU mackerel quota for 2010 came in at 130,000 metric tons.
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 Faroese governments to boost their mackerel quotas considerably.
Scottish fishermen argue the ramping up Iceland’s quota will impact the fishery’s sustainability, which they have worked hard to bolster, and threaten an industry worth GBP 135 million to the Scottish economy in 2009.
Exacerbating the ire of the Scots further, in December Iceland set a 2011 mackerel quota of 146,818 metric tons. The EU and Norway have set a quota of 583,882 metric tons for 2011, out of a recommended total allowable catch of nearly 650,000 metric tons.
Last month, Tomas H. Heidar, Iceland’s chief negotiator for mackerel, said the EU’s and Norway’s quota decision is “totally unjustified and amounts to a decision to overfish mackerel.”
“The EU and Norway are not the sole owners of the mackerel stock, and by taking almost all the recommended total allowable catch they disregard the legitimate interests of the other two coastal states, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands, as well as the interests of Russia,” said Heidar.