MACKEREL TALKS FOR 2012 UNDERWAY Published:  19 October, 2011

Negotiations to seek international agreement on mackerel fishing.

After another year of overfishing of the mackerel stock by the Faroe Islands and Iceland, talks are to begin to try and broker a new deal for the 2012 season.

First-round negotiations get underway in London tomorrow, including Norway, Faroes, Iceland, and an EU delegation that includes senior Scottish Government representation. Numerous attempts to secure an agreement for this year failed and Faroes and Iceland once again set themselves huge unilateral shares of the mackerel stock.

Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Scotland’s overwhelming priority from these series of new talks is to secure a new four-way deal that safeguards the mackerel stock. The excessive mackerel fishing we have seen from Faroes and Iceland once again this year is deeply worrying and if it continues at the current levels – flying in the face of scientific advice – then we face the possibility of the stock falling below safe limits as early as 2014.

“It’s very concerning that the self-declared quota by the Faroes was so large that their own fleet could not even catch it and they invited large foreign-owned vessels to fish their waters. Indications also show that much of their catch is of poor quality and not fit for human consumption. Such irresponsible behaviour must not be allowed to continue for another year.

“We recognise Iceland as a coastal state with a right to a share of the mackerel fishery, however they must be prepared to negotiate reasonably and come to an agreement because a sustainable mackerel stock is in all our interests.

“All sides need to work together in order to protect the long-term future of this vitally important stock. There are not many opportunities left to ensure the mackerel fishery remains as productive and profitable for all parties as it has in previous years.”

In 2011 the Faroe Islands unilaterally set themselves a mackerel catch of 150,000 tonnes, up 75 per cent on 2010 and more than five times their internationally agreed share in 2009.  Meanwhile, Iceland, which caught very little mackerel prior to 2008, set its own increased TAC of around 147,000 tonnes earlier this year.

The overfish in excess of the recommended total allowable catch (TAC) for 2011 is estimated to be nearly 300,000t (a total of 935,000t). If overfishing on this scale continues, scientists estimate that the stock could fall below precautionary levels as early as 2014.

Statistics for 2010 indicate that mackerel remains Scotland’s most valuable catch, worth 113 million pounds to the Scottish economy.