A senior Scottish Government official is part of the EU delegation that is seeking to put in place a new international agreement for the mackerel stock.

Previous attempts to secure a new four part deal for 2011 to protect the shared mackerel stock and ensure that it is fished sustainably have all failed – with first Iceland and then the Faroe Islands walking away from talks with the EU and Norway.

With the EU currently exploring options for sanctions against any state acting outwith international fishery agreements, further talks are now taking place.

Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Scotland’s overwhelming priority remains securing a new four-way deal to protect the sustainability of the mackerel stock and the long-term viability of the industry. However, an agreement can’t come at any cost and we will seek a fair and justifiable outcome.

“The irresponsible 2011 mackerel quotas we have seen set by Iceland already is deeply worrying for the future of the fishery. I urge Iceland and the Faroes to negotiate reasonably. I believe the EU is prepared to be realistic and flexible in seeking a resolution.

“As there is currently no fishery agreement with the Faroes in place for 2011, Scottish vessels who would normally fish for other species in Faroese waters some of the time are being denied access. This demonstrates the wider effect that a lack of agreement is having and a new international deal for the mackerel stock is in everyone’s interests.”

For 2011 Iceland have set themselves a total allowable catch (TAC) for mackerel of around 155,000 tonnes. In 2010 the Faroes set a mackerel TAC of 85,000 tonnes, more than three times their previous level, and it is anticipated they will set an even higher catch for 2011.

The value of mackerel to the Scottish economy was £135 million in 2009 – the fleet’s most valuable stock – and directly supports around 2,500 jobs.