Iceland finds willing markets for its mackerel –

Iceland finds willing markets for its mackerel Published:  25 January, 2011

ANY hope that the European Union ban on Icelandic mackerel exports will bring the country back to the negotiating table appear to have been dashed by the latest figures.

Iceland has just announced that last year it sold mackerel worth 49 million euros (about £42-million sterling) to 27 different countries. They include some of the world’s largest fish consumers with countries like Russia (which was the largest purchaser), China, South Korea and the United States.

Other buyers include Taiwan, Egypt, Turkey and Nigeria. There is no suggestion that any of these countries, which are all outside the EU, will stop buying Icelandic mackerel, therefore, the statistics show that Reykjavik does not need Europe to buy its fish. Much of the fish was sold as frozen products.

It was just over two weeks ago that the EU decided to block Icelandic vessels carrying mackerel from landing in its ports because the country has given itself a unilateral quota of 147,000 tons which Brussels regards as being too high to retain a sustainable mackerel stock. As yet the Faroe Islands have not been included because so far they have not set a quota for 2011. Mackerel is the Scottish fleet’s most valuable stock and fishing leaders had said the row was likely to escalate unless action was taken.

Some fishing leaders, notably in Scotland and Ireland, the two countries most likely to be affected by overfishing, want the ban extended to cover all Icelandic fish including cod and haddock because they feel it is the only way to force a change in policy. However, this is not thought likely to happen because of the adverse affect on fish processing jobs and regions like the Humber.

Iceland says more than a million tonnes of mackerel, a quarter of the stock, migrated into its economic zone during the five-month summer feeding season. It plans to maintain this year’s 17 percent share of the north Atlantic catch in 2011. It has criticised the EU and Norway last month for failing to take that into account when they jointly decided to take 583,882 tonnes of mackerel in 2011, the majority of the amount that scientists say is ecologically safe to catch.