Calls for further action on Icelandic mackerel quota

Iceland’s decision to reduce its 2013 mackerel fishing quota by just 15 per cent has been branded “disappointing” by Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead.

Ian Gatt, Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, added it was still far to great a quota for the fishery.

In response to the cuts, Mr Lochhead said: “It is disappointing that Iceland remains intent on taking an excessively large share of the TAC, a greater share than Scotland, despite their short history in the fishery.

“This will continue to damage our most valuable stock and an opportunity has been missed to show willingness to help bring this dispute to end. It is now clear that further steps have to be taken to manage this stock in a sustainable manner.

“I believe that the best way this can be achieved is by the appointment of an independent mediator who can facilitate co-operation in an objective and neutral manner. I am also calling on the EU to deliver on promised action.

“We await the Faroes announcement of their quota, and I hope they will carefully consider their position, although the best outcome would be for them and Iceland, to come back to the negotiating table with realistic proposals on which we can base an agreement.”

Echoing those concerns, Mr Gatt said: “Whilst Iceland is following the lead of the EU and Norway who have already reduced their mackerel quota by 15%, it is an inescapable fact that Iceland is still taking an excessively large share that is fished unilaterally and outwith any international management plan.

“It is important to highlight that while Iceland’s share allocation demands are based on 15% of the total catch, the actual quota they have set themselves is close to 23%.

“This is an issue that can only be resolved by negotiation and the onus is on both Iceland and the Faroes to table a realistic counter offer so as to get the negotiating process rolling again.”

Meanwhile, the SFF has said Iceland should be directing its efforts towards seeking a resolution to the mackerel dispute in the north-east Atlantic rather than engaging in ‘futile’ PR exercises, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation claimed last week.

With the news that the Icelandic Government is hosting a visit by UK journalists on a media trip to Iceland this week, the SFF says that rather than using ‘spin to defend the indefensible’, Iceland should be focusing its efforts on re-opening negotiations.

“This is another futile attempt by Iceland to defend its indefensible action of dramatically and unilaterally increasing its mackerel catch outwith an agreed international management plan,” says Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the SFF.

“It is a pity that Iceland doesn’t spend the same amount of time and effort in trying to find a negotiated solution to this dispute.

“The ball is very firmly in the court of both Iceland and the Faroes as they need to table a counter offer so as to get the negotiating process rolling again.

“So far this has not happened and in repeated negotiations over the last few years, where the EU and Norway have made several increased share offers, both Iceland and the Faroes have shown no willingness to seek a compromise solution.

“This is why the EU is so exasperated by the situation that the European Commission has informed the Coastal States involved in the fishery that it refuses to attend further meetings until an offer has been received by either or both parties.

“One also has to question why Iceland continually sets its mackerel catch at 23% of the TAC set by scientific advice when they are demanding a 15% share in the negotiations, which is a strange approach to sustainable catching,” he added.