Faroe Questions EU & Norway Credibility

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
31 August 2010, at 1:00am

EU AND NORWAY - The Faroese Pelagic Organisation (Felagi Notaskip) has questioned the credibility of the EU and Norway, with their grab of 110 per cent of a mackerel quota for themselves.

For while some Iceland and the Faroe Islands have been blamed for alleged problems in the North East Atlantic mackerel fishery, questions remain over the EU and Norway’s commitment to multilateral co-operation as the mackerel stock gravitates toward the North-west, the Faroese Pelagic Organisation maintained.

The Faroese move to increase their portion of the quota from 35,000 to 85,000 tonnes, from five to fifteen per cent of 570,000 tonnes for the 2010 season, was against the background of evidence of a “remarkable shift” toward the North-west in the migratory mackerel population.This suggested that the Faroese”may indeed rightfully claim a higher share,” the Faroese grouping went on.

They added that consultations between the mackerel Coastal States fell short of reaching a multilateral agreement for this year with the EU and Norway agreeing on a quota between themselves that “leaves nothing” to the Faroese or the Icelanders, nor for an allocation in international waters through the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, where Russia gets its share.

“Thus the present agreement made between the EU and Norway raises questions of credibility as it allots the two parties as much as 110 percent of the total allowable catch (TAC) of 570,000 tonnes recommended by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

“Meanwhile the outburst of criticism against the Faroe Islands for setting its own mackerel quota on par with its bid for a raised share in the Coastal State framework baffles the Faroese Pelagic Organisation (FPO).

“The move by the EU and Norway to first take more than everything for themselves and then blame others for irresponsibility is hardly a testimony to their commitment to responsible management,” said managing director Jógvan Jespersen of the FPO.

Mr Jespersen said that left out of the agreement, the Faroese could only set their own quota. As they did this in line with their demands at the negotiating table, the Norwegians and the EU reacted with sharp condemnation and anger, meeting with disbelief in the Faroe Islands.

“We are very disappointed over the decision by the pelagic industry in the EU and Norway to block Faroese vessels from landing mackerel and thereby to terminate their decade-long co-operation with our fleet,” Mr Jespersen said.

He underlined his view that all Coastal States parties have a shared responsibility to sort out the differences that sank this year’s mackerel agreement.

“Indeed the blame pointed at the Faroese is based on the perceived possibility that the future health of the mackerel stock could be in jeopardy given the absence of a comprehensive agreement among the Coastal States. Be that as it may, the EU and Norway certainly must take their share of the responsibility for any failure to restore the multilateral agreement. The Faroese made every effort to reach a negotiated solution and were willing to compromise if necessary.

“When two parties have differences over an issue, you cannot reach agreement by having the solution dictated by one side. All the countries engaged in this mackerel fishery, not just the Faroes, have a responsibility to make sure the stock is fished responsibly and sustainably.”

There were two major disagreements at the Coastal States mackerel negotiations for 2010 in Clonakilty last October and in Edinburgh last November, according to Mr Jespersen.

“First, it turned out that the mackerel had left Norwegian waters earlier than expected, and so the Norwegians were upset at the EU’s refusal to give Norwegian vessels access into EU waters for catching the remaining 70,000 tonnes of their quota. Second, the Faroe Islands demanded a change to the sharing of the quota to reflect the changed geographical distribution of the mackerel stock.”

The arguments presented by the Faroese are based on a “new consensus” between scientists and fishermen that the juvenile and adult mackerel population has moved increasingly toward the North-west, which means the mackerel is found in Faroese waters to a larger degree than ever and over a longer period of the year.

Some would argue that the officially recognised scientific data regarding the size of the mackerel stock are based on inadequate methodologies and extremely conservative recommendations on catch, with egg surveys only recently taking place in the now densely populated waters around Iceland and the Faroe Islands. “What’s obvious to everyone here is that the mackerel is booming and the waters are brimming with it,” the FPO added.

The ongoing mackerel dispute will be a central topic on the agenda of the international conference The Pelagic Complex due to take place in Tórshavn, Faroe, from September 7-9, under the auspices of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

“The conference can pave the way for a fresh understanding of the major pelagic stocks such as herring, blue whiting and not least mackerel,” says Jacob Vestergaard, Faroe Islands’ fisheries minister and host for the conference.

Planning for the conference began more than a year ago. The Nordic Council of Ministers considers one of its most important tasks is to ensure that fisheries issues are aired properly and openly in the Nordic cooperation. The Council of Ministers has repeatedly stressed how vital fish resources are for all of the Nordic countries.