Negotiator: Iceland willing to talk
Tomas Heidar, Iceland’s chief negotiator on mackerel fisheries, on Tuesday reiterated Iceland’s commitment to finding a “fair solution … that takes into account the legitimate interests of all parties” in the dispute over mackerel in the North Atlantic.
Heidar’s comments come almost a week after European Union Fisheries Minister Maria Damanaki and Norwegian Fisheries Minister Lisbeth Berg-Hansen expressed concern that the Faeroe Islands is chartering foreign vessels to catch its unilateral mackerel quota, which they deemed “a clear move away from responsible, modern fisheries management.”
In a joint statement, Damanaki and Berg-Hansen urged Iceland and the Faeroes to return to the negotiating table. The deadlock over mackerel — pitting the EU and Norway against Iceland and the Faeroes — has dragged on for months despite numerous rounds of negotiations.
Heidar said Iceland is willing to continue talks and expects all four parties to meet again in early fall.
“What is particularly urgent now, however, is that the EU and Norway, the two biggest stakeholders in the mackerel fisheries, will shoulder their corresponding responsibility and contribute to a solution to the mackerel dispute in order to prevent overfishing from this important stock and ensure sustainable fisheries. This is clearly the joint responsibility of the four coastal states — the EU, Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands,” said Heidar in an e-mail to SeafoodSource.
“However, the EU and Norway, have obviously most to gain in this respect and we hope that they will now contribute to a solution,” he added. “The recent agreement between Iceland, Denmark, the EU and Norway on the management of pelagic redfish southwest of Iceland, where Iceland, the biggest stakeholder, had to show considerable flexibility and accept a reduced share while the EU and Norway maintained their shares, is a case in point.”
This year, Iceland and the Faeroes set their mackerel quotas higher than catches in previous years after mackerel stocks increased significantly in North Atlantic. But the EU and Norway argue that Iceland and the Faeroes defied the coastal states management plan for mackerel by setting their quotas too high.
“It should be recalled that, according to a joint Norwegian-Faroese-Icelandic survey, over 1 million tons of mackerel, 23 percent of the stock, migrated into the Icelandic zone during the feeding season last year (four to five months). It is estimated that mackerel increases its weight in the Icelandic zone during the summer months by 59 percent, with obvious impacts on other important fish stocks and the Icelandic marine ecosystem as a whole,” said Heidar.