The European Commission revealed at Monday night’s (15 July) Fish Council talks in Brussels that they will quickly implement sanctions unless the Faroese cease fishing for herring and bring forward a suitable plan for sustainable fishing of the stock. The Commission also confirmed they will now bring forward similar measures against Iceland on mackerel, which it says will be outlined to Member States in due course.
Earlier this year the Faroes stepped outside the long standing agreed management arrangement for the herring stock and set a quota share more than three times larger than their traditional share (from 31,940t to 105,000t). In response to this massive unilateral quota increase, the Marine Stewardship Council recently suspended the MSC eco-label certificate for the Faroese Atlantic herring fishery.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association said: “This is welcome news and we are pleased the EC has given its commitment to deliver firm action. The irresponsible behaviour of both Faroes and Iceland in their over-fishing of key stocks cannot be allowed to continue. Their actions are threatening the sustainability of important herring and mackerel fisheries, as well as the livelihoods of fishing communities in northern Europe.
“Hopefully, this new action announced by the EC will provide the spur for both Iceland and the Faroes to return to the negotiating table and so that we can reach a fair and equitable deal.”
Irish Fisheries Minister, Simon Coveney said: “I called for and secured the agreement of Commissioner Damanaki that the EU will immediately prepare for trade restrictions against Iceland and the Faroe Islands. I received strong support from many Member States including the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands. Both Iceland and the Faroes have repeatedly refused to engage in any meaningful negotiations with the EU and Norway over the past five years. This is simply unacceptable as they are now fishing over 50 per cent of the scientifically recommended catch level for mackerel. I am pleased that the Commissioner and most Member States supported moving quickly during this fishing season to take strong and decisive measures. We have been left with no choice and must act against these countries being rewarded by their unsustainable and irresponsible behaviour. I regret that we have been forced to take this action but the continued absence of any meaningful attempt to negotiate by either country has left us with no alternative.”
For mackerel, Iceland has set an autonomous mackerel quota for 2013 of 123,000t or 22.7 per cent of the science based 2013 TAC (total allowable catch) while the Faroe Islands has set an autonomous mackerel quota of 159,000t or 29.3 per cent of the 2013 TAC. This means that in 2013 both countries will catch 52 per cent of the overall 2013 TAC, whereas only as recently as 2006 their joint share in the mackerel catches was just over five per cent.