Faroes walk out of mackerel quota talks
December 10 2010 Lewis Smith
Talks to set quota levels for mackerel have collapsed after the Faroe Islands walked out of last ditch negotiations.
The walk-out prompted an immediate threat by Scottish Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead to take “strong action” to punish the Faroes and to ensure mackerel stocks are kept at sustainable levels.
Iceland has already walked out of talks with the European Union and Norway and they and the Faroes are intent on setting their own mackerel quotas for 2011.
The quotas the Faroes and Iceland have declared unilaterally are much higher than the EU believes is fair or sustainable and raises the likelihood of retaliatory action.
Earlier this year the EU said it would be prepared to take measures, up to and including trade sanctions, to get the Faroes and Iceland to reduce their self-declared quotas.
Mr Lochhead, who led the UK delegation at the talks in Copenhagen, was “angry and extremely disappointed” at the fresh walk-out.
“It is clear to me that the Faroes are not being reasonable and seem willing to bring about the demise of this valuable stock by their inflexibility,” he said. "Combined with Iceland's activities, the situation we are now facing could be potentially disastrous for the mackerel stock which Scotland and others have so carefully managed for the last ten years.
"We are being made to suffer for the selfish behaviour of others. It is unacceptable for individual parties to pursue short-term gain by overfishing, putting at risk the sustainability of the mackerel stock. Such a situation benefits no-one.
"It is important now that we work with the UK and the EU to take strong action in order to make it clear that this type of behaviour is not acceptable."
Richard Benyon, Minister for Environment and Fisheries, said:
“It is very disappointing that we have been unable to reach an agreement with the Faroe Islands on mackerel or wider fisheries issues because of their insistence on increasing quotas and excessive demands on the stock.
“The lack of an agreement with Faroe and Iceland on mackerel is a major threat to the stock’s future sustainability and we are considering what actions we can now take to make them see sense.”
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, called for “immediate sanctions” to be taken against Iceland and the Faroes to damage their ability to sell their pelagic fish catches.
He added: “We would all like more fish but we need to abide by international agreements to ensure that the mackerel stock is harvested responsibly. We utterly condemn the unsustainable fishing practices that the Faroese and Icelanders are now about to embark upon.”
Iceland has set its own quota at 130,000 tonnes, up 15,000 from this year’s which was regarded as unacceptable by the EU, while the Faroes want 85,000 tonnes next year. Both nations have claimed changing migration patterns give them a right to the increased quotas.
The quotas are many times larger than a few years ago and could mean a total catch in the North East Atlantic of 772,000 tonnes. Scientists believe 570,000 tonnes is the maximum that can be sustained without damaging stocks in future years.
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