Thursday

24th Jun 2021

Iceland and Brussels in fishing row as EU talks begin

  • EU membership talks with Iceland began on 27 July with fisheries expected to be one of the thorniest issues on the table (Photo: EUobserver)

Just as Iceland is beginning its European Union membership negotiations, Brussels has warned it could block access for Icelandic and Faroe Islands fishermen to EU waters if they do not back down on plans to boost their mackerel catch.

Seas warmer than usual this year have seen a migration of mackerel out of EU waters to cooler more northerly territories fished by Icelanders and Denmark's Faeroese, who have both upped their mackerel catch allowances in response, angering Brussels.

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Fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki on Monday (9 August) warned of the EU's "grave concern" at the "unilateral" and "surprise" move, after the Faeroe Islands extended its catch limits the same day.

"This escalating trend, whereby unjustifiably high mackerel fishing quotas had been set firstly by Iceland and now by Faeroe Islands for 2010, is in clear contradiction with the avowed objective of sustainable fisheries," she said in a statement.

"Such actions risk causing the collapse of the northeast Atlantic mackerel stock, which would be to the detriment of all the fleets and industries concerned."

If the two countries do not row back on their stance, Ms Damanaki warned they could lose access to EU waters.

"We will put all our efforts into ending this untenable situation by trying to come to an agreement with all states fishing on the north eastern mackerel stock," she continued.

"Should our efforts not be fruitful, however, I cannot guarantee that we will continue to exchange fishing possibilities with Iceland and the Faroe Islands in 2011."

For their part, the Icelandic Fishing Vessel Owners Association (LIU) has hit back, attacking the EU and Norway for excluding Reykjavik from mackerel negotiations over the last decade.

"There is no comprehensive agreement for the integrated management of the mackerel fishery. Norway and the EU have seriously undermined the credibility of their own management scheme for more than a decade by unlawfully blocking the participation of Iceland in mackerel negotiations," the group said in a statement.

"The current lack of an agreement for the integrated management of mackerel is a direct consequence of this regrettable behaviour by Norway and the EU."

As a result of Iceland not being admitted to negotiations for the industry for 2010, Icelandic fishermen unilaterally boosted its mackerel quota, they said.

EU membership talks with Iceland began on 27 July with fisheries expected to be one of the thorniest issues on the table.

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