Sanctions to penalise the irresponsible mackerel fishing by Iceland and the Faroe Islands have finally been given formal agreement in Brussels today.
However, any relief that this long-awaited development will finally be in place was tempered by warnings from the Commission that scientific advice due out at the end of this week is likely to recommend a cut in mackerel quotas for 2013.
In recent years Iceland and the Faroes have set themselves massively inflated autonomous mackerel quotas outwith any international management agreement with the EU and Norway.
Speaking following the EU Fisheries Council where the issue was on the agenda, Scotland’s Fishing Minister Richard Lochhead said: “This has been a painfully slow process but sanctions have finally been agreed and we will continue to press for them to be implemented if the Faroes and Iceland again declare inflated mackerel quotas for next year.
“And it is deeply frustrating that because the process has taken so long that we are now facing proposals to cut next year’s quotas. It is simply infuriating that overfishing of mackerel by Iceland and the Faroes could lead to Scottish fishermen facing reduced quotas. The current negotiating framework and Europe’s lack of urgency is failing to protect a vital fishery and is threatening Scottish jobs. Now we are left in a very complex and difficult place.
“If next month’s scheduled talks with Iceland and the Faroes don’t deliver a breakthrough then the threat posed to this important international fishery and many livelihoods will only increase.
“Iceland and the Faroes must realise that the lack of sustainable management of this stock may provide their sectors with short terms gains but it will be long term disaster for all pelagic sectors. Hopefully, the prospect of sanctions will help concentrate Icelandic and Faroese minds.”
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, added: “We welcome this formal agreement for action, but the EC must now dramatically step up the pace and get an effective sanctions package implemented as soon as possible. Livelihoods in the Scottish catching, processing and other ancillary sectors could be affected if this totally irresponsible over-fishing by Iceland and the Faroes were to result in reduced quotas for our own fishing fleet, which has been adhering to scientific advice and fishing sustainably.”