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Scotland And Norway Join Forces In Mackerel Dispute

NORWAY AND SCOTLAND - Scotland and Norway have joined forces to call for an end to the so-called "mackerel dispute" which is threatening to punish the responsible actions of Scottish and Norwegian fleets.

First Minister Alex Salmond met with Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre today to discuss a range of issues, including the "irresponsible" decision by Iceland and the Faroe Islands to unilaterally award excessive fishing quota for mackerel.

The Faroe Islands recently set a quota for mackerel of 85,000 tonnes for this year - 15 per cent of the recommended global total allowable catch and far in excess of their previous four per cent share. This follows a recent decision by Iceland to declare themselves a quota of 130,000 tonnes.

The First Minister said this is not only likely to 'devastate the sustainability' of the stock but will also 'seriously undermine' Scotland's credentials as the first large-scale mackerel fishery in Europe to be accredited by the Marine Stewardship Council. Scotland's Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead has already written twice to the European Commissioner calling for a tough response.

The First Minister said: "Scotland and Norway share many fisheries interests, a number of North Sea stocks are jointly managed and shared through the annual EU/Norway fisheries bi-laterals. And we are in complete agreement that the Governments of the Faroe Islands and Iceland have acted irresponsibly and are threatening global mackerel stocks by awarding such excessive quotas.

"The EU and Norway are strongly aligned on this issue having committed to a ten-year deal on mackerel management and shares in January 2010. This partnership will be absolutely vital in tackling Iceland and the Faroes in an effective manner that sends out a strong message to others that while responsible and innovative fisheries practices will be rewarded, those who don't take conservation seriously will be dealt with in an appropriate manner.

"Because of the considerable sacrifices made by Scotland's fishermen and other EU member states on the conservation front, including Norway, mackerel is now one of the most sustainable fisheries. However Iceland and the Faroes are running the very real risk of making a mockery of our efforts and must be called to task. This is of great concern to both the Scottish and Norwegian industry and authorities.

"The dispute could have huge consequences for the Scottish fishing industry if it results in damage to the stock or a substantial reduction in shares. Landings of mackerel by Scottish vessels in 2009 were worth an estimated £135 million, almost a third of the total value of all fish and shellfish landings by the whole Scottish fishing fleet in 2009. The Scottish Government has already joined forces with the UK Government to voice its concern and has also made an official objection to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of Faroese mackerel. Norway has also taken decisive action and is to be applauded for doing so.

"We are pleased that the European Commissioner, Mrs Damanaki, has taken the unusual step of publicly denouncing these damaging actions and that she has written to the Enlargement Commissioner (Mr Fule) requesting that the issue be kept at the forefront of the Icelandic EU accession negotiations. I would urge the EU and Norway to keep up the pressure, and hope that a new round of negotiations will begin shortly where we will aim to pursue a fairer outcome for all parties. But we will not accept a deal at any price and we will not allow the anarchic actions of Iceland and Faroes to hold all the rest of us to ransom."

the Fish Site Editor

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