MARIA Damanaki, the European Fisheries Commissioner, today joined the growing clamour of condemnation against Iceland’s decision to announce a unilateral fishing quota for North Atlantic mackerel.
The Icelandic Government is refusing to enter into an international agreement on the division of quotas for the vital stock which is the Scottish pelagic fleet’s most valuable single catch.
At the weekend the Icelandic government announced it was only prepared to lower its mackerel fishing quota for 2013 by 15 per cent as part of the country’s commitment to the “long-term sustainability” of stocks, provoking a furious outcry by Scottish fishermen’s leaders.
Today Ms Damanaki accused the Icelandic authorities of ignoring the state of the mackerel stocks and the “legitimate interests” of the other nations, including Britain, which have traditionally shared in the lucrative fishery.
Oliver Drewes, the official spokesman for Commissioner Damanaki, said: “The Commission regrets Iceland’s announcement of a unilateral fishing quota for mackerel. We regret that Iceland has decided its own quota unilaterally and not in consultation with its partners, for yet another year. “
He continued: “Iceland’s claim to reduce its quota conceals the fact that Iceland’s unilateral quota remains excessively high, before and after the reduction. Iceland awards itself almost a quarter of the entire scientifically justified quota for the North Atlantic mackerel stock, from a zero level a few years ago. This leaves the ten or more other fishing nations to share the remainder. Therefore Iceland’s mackerel fisheries is still unsustainable and ignores the health of the mackerel fish stock as well as the legitimate interests of all other costal parties.
“Iceland’s self-awarded quota of 23 per cent exceeds by far Iceland’s own claim, made at the negotiating table, and anything that scientific surveys can justify. Science is clearly pointing to the need to reduce catches of mackerel. The European Union and Norway have imposed on themselves much higher reductions in 2013. The European Union and Norway have cut their catches by more than 89 000 tonnes, compared to Iceland’s announced reduction of around 25 000 tonnes.”
Mr Drewes added: “The Commission remains committed to finding a multilateral solution with all coastal partners and appeals to Iceland to return to the negotiating table with an offer that is sustainable and constructive.”
The mackerel catch is worth £116 million a year to the Scottish pelagic fleet. But last month the popular oily fish was removed from the coveted list of “Fish to Eat” recommended by the environmental watchdog, the Marine Conservation Society, because of the “overfishing” of the stock.