Iceland's mackerel negotiator calles for change of tactics –

Iceland’s mackerel negotiator calles for change of tactics Published:  16 December, 2011

ICELAND’S mackerel negotiator has urged the EU to change its tactics towards his country in the wake of news that Brussels is finally planning sanctions against both Iceland and the Faroes.

Tomas Heidar said: “In my view, the EU Commission should rather concentrate on promoting a solution to the mackerel issue than allude to import restrictions and other trade measures that would be in violation of international trade agreements.“At the meeting of the four coastal States in Clonakilty last week, the EU and Norway submitted a proposal on the allocation of quotas between the parties which represented a major step backwards from recent meetings. The proposal was very disappointing to Iceland which has emphasised the need to reach an agreement in order to ensure sustainable mackerel fisheries and prevent further overfishing from the stock for which all the parties are jointly responsible.”

According to Icelandic law, foreign vessels fishing from shared stocks, on which there is no management agreement, are not permitted to land their catches from such stocks in Icelandic ports. Foreign fishing vessels are therefore not permitted to land mackerel in Icelandic ports. Such a landing ban is in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Agreement on the European Economic Area and identical provisions are to be found in Norwegian law.

The Icelandic authorities obviously do not object to the same rules applying to the landing by Icelandic fishing vessels in foreign ports as apply to the landing by foreign fishing vessels in Icelandic ports.

“It should be noted in this context that mackerel fisheries by Icelandic vessels have in recent years exclusively taken place within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of Iceland and all catches have been landed in Icelandic ports and processed in Iceland.

“However, it is quite clear that trade restrictions and other such trade measures have no basis in and are in violation of the EEA Agreement, the EFTA Agreement, the WTO Agreement and other international trade agreements. I therefore do not find it credible that the EU would seriously consider applying such measures.”

Heidar said no decision has been made on further consultations between the four coastal States on mackerel fisheries.

 “Presumably, Iceland will have an unchanged share in the fisheries in 2012, around 16 per cent. We do not exclude the possibility of making a final attempt to reach an agreement but the EU and Norway must reconsider their position carefully if there is to be any hope of progress in such final meeting.”

Heidar said an agreement must take into account the fact that in recent years around 1.1 million tonnes of mackerel, a quarter of the stock, migrates annually into the Icelandic exclusive economic zone during the feeding season (four to five months). It is estimated that mackerel increases its weight in the Icelandic zone during the summer months by around 60 per cent with obvious impacts on other important fish stocks and the Icelandic marine ecosystem as a whole .“The mackerel therefore increases its weight in the Icelandic zone by around 660,000 tonnes annually, almost five times the amount of the Icelandic mackerel fishing this year,” Heidar said.