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Icelands Stance In The Mackerel Debate

by 5m Editor
13 September 2010, at 1:00am

ICELAND - In the extensive debate on the mackerel issue over the last weeks, several allegations have beenmade regarding Iceland's mackerel fisheries. The lcelandic authorities would like to respond bymaking the following clarifi cations.

The Fisheries

Iceland is a coastal State with respect to the mackerel stock. Historic fishing patterns, including extensive mackerel f,rsheries on the border of the Icelandic exclusive economic zone, demonstrate that mackerel has consistently been in some abundance in waters under our national jurisdiction.

In recent years the fisheries for mackerel have increased within the Icelandic jurisdiction. In 2007 Icelandic fishing vessels caught 36,000 tons and in 2008 the catch was 1 12,000 tons. In 2009 the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture took measures to limit the fisheries and the catch that year was 116,000 tons. In 2010 the catch limit is 130,000 tons.

The Distribution

The migration pattern of the mackerel stock has been changing in recent years and large quantities of mackerel have migrated into the Icelandic exclusive economic zone. The area of distribution of the catch within the zone has also increased significantly and mackerel has been located almost everywhere around the island.

The Marine Research Institute recently finished a snrvey which shows that mackerel is now in even greater abundance in the Icelandic zone than last year when a similar survey was made.

The Legal Status

According to the IIN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the four coastal States, Iceland, the EU, the Faroe Islands and Norway, have the right to fish for mackerel. However, the right to utilise the shared mackerel stock is coupled with an obligation under the Convention and the UN Fish Stocks Agreement to cooperate in the conservation and management of the stock.

Despite repeated requests by Iceland to participate in the coastal States consultations on the management of mackerel, we were prevented from doing so for many years. The other three coastal States refused to recognize Iceland's status as a coastal State and questioned reports on the considerable mackerel catches within the Icelandic exclusive economic zone. Consequently, Iceland was forced to object, in accordance with the NEAFC Convention, to the management measures for mackerel established by the other three coastal States within the NEAFC framework and to limit its catches by setting a unilateral quota.

The Consultations

Earlier this year, Iceland's status as a coastal State with respect to the mackerel stock was finally recognised by the other three coastal States. The four parties held two meetings in an attempt to reach an agteement on the management of the fisheries this year. No agreement was reached but the parties agreed that the consultations had been positive and held in good spirit.

Each of the coastal States has made a unilateral decision on the limitation of its fisheries this year. As is unfortunately often the case in such circumstances, the aggregated unilateral quotas exceeded the Total Allowable Catch recommended by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

Joint Responsibility

It should be emphasized that it is the joint responsibility of the four coastal States to reach an agreement on the comprehensive management of the mackerel fisheries in order to ensure their sustainability.

Consultations of the coastal States have been scheduled this October where an attempt will be made to reach an agreement on the management of the mackerel fisheries starting next year. Iceland stresses the importance of reaching a conclusion and will do its utmost in this regard. We expect the same of the other parties.

5m Editor