MSPs advised not to push for import ban on mackerel

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MSPs have been advised not to push for an import ban on mackerel from Iceland and the Faroe Islands as a way of resolving conflict over catch quotas.

Using punitive measures could hit fish processors in the UK, where much of the produce is sent, members of Holyrood’s European and External Relations Committee were told.

Dr Ian Duncan, European officer for the Scottish Parliament, said: “The difficulty, and the reason where there is no ban on imports, is because the support is not as widespread as you would imagine.

“The UK itself has been less than excited by the prospect because the principle mackerel processing is in the UK.

“A lot of jobs, both in the north-east of Scotland, Shetland and down in the north of England, depend on the mackerel for processing.”

He said the issue is complicated, adding: “Something must be done, there is no question about that, but it might be worthwhile us asking the question, ‘what now are both the Scottish and UK governments intending to do to establish a more balanced and sustainable fishery’, as a first step.”

The fishing dispute centres on the amount of mackerel being fished by European Union (EU) countries Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

Iceland and the Faroes set their own inflated quotas in recent years, arguing that larger numbers of fish moved into their territorial waters.

A vote in the European Parliament in September last year progressed plans to make sanction measures available to the EU.

Labour MSP Hanzala Malik suggested raising the ban proposal with the EU.

“One of the things that does come to mind is a ban of imports from Iceland and Faroes of all their stock until such time as they can come to a conclusion,” he said during a meeting of the European and External Relations Committee.

But he added: “What I would not wish to do is harm their industry, but at the same time we can’t allow them to harm our industry.”