THE European Parliament has finally paved the way for tough trade sanctions to be taken against Iceland and the Faroes in a bid to secure a settlement in the long-running “mackerel war” with the two Nordic nations.
It is now 25 months since Scottish pelagic skippers mounted two successful quayside blockades at Peterhead to prevent Faroese trawlers landing huge consignments of mackerel following the decision of the Faroese and Icelandic governments to set massive autonomous quotas for a catch which is worth £135 million to the Scottish fishing industry.
But MEPs have now voted through new rules empowering the European Commission to ban EU imports of fish from overfished stocks, opening up the way to trade sanctions against third countries, including the Faroes and Iceland.
The next round of negotiations between the EU, Norway, Iceland and the Faroes is due to resume next month in a last ditch attempt to settle the row over the future of the North-east Atlantic mackerel fishery estimated to be worth more than £1 billion.
The Parliament’s vote in favour of sanctions was welcomed by Scottish fishermen’s leaders who urged the European Commission to implement the measures as soon as possible.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “We welcome today’s vote by the European Parliament, although it is essential that the European Commission now moves quickly to implement the measures. As the biggest stakeholder in the EU mackerel fishery, UK and Scottish Ministers will have a vital role to play by putting pressure on the Commission to ensure it does enact the sanction measures as fast as possible.”
He continued: “This is the third straight year without an international agreement on mackerel, which means the sustainability of this valuable fishery is being jeopardised. Hopefully, today’s vote will help ensure that Iceland and the Faroes recognise the seriousness of the situation and at long last they will return to the table to engage in meaningful negotiations. This is a very important moment in this long running dispute.”