Talks fail to secure international agreement to safeguard fishery –

Talks fail to secure international agreement to safeguard fishery Published:  17 February, 2012

A final chance to put in place a deal to ensure mackerel is sustainably fished in 2012 has failed to secure international agreement.

Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead has warned that a third straight year without agreement is a dangerous strategy that is risking the future of what is a very valuable fishery.

A fifth – and final – round of 2012 talks concluded in Reykjavik today, with Faroe Islands and Iceland failing to show movement and come to an agreement with the EU and Norway. The EU and Norway will now come to a bilateral arrangement, while the Faroes and Iceland will set their own quotas unilaterally.

Mr Lochhead said: “It is deeply disappointing and enormously frustrating that we are facing another year without a mackerel deal. The lack of progress this week has been very worrying, with the Faroes in particular demonstrating a lack of willing to reach a deal. We now expect Faroes and Iceland will continue with grossly inflated quotas that are all about short-term selfish gain.

“We recognise mackerel stocks are currently present in seas further west and Iceland has a right to a share. However, it’s unacceptable to opportunistically pursue these massive quotas. The Faroes, meanwhile, don’t even have the capacity to catch so many mackerel, with foreign vessels invited into their waters to pillage the stock on their behalf.

“If overfishing continues, we face the prospect of the mackerel stock falling below safe limits by 2014. That’s why we need the EU to fast-track plans for sanctions against any country engaging in unsustainable fishing outwith international agreements. We cannot allow a stock that Scottish fishing communities have relied upon for generations to be recklessly plundered, year and year. This impasse must come to an end by some means, to secure this fishery for decades to come.”

In 2011 the Faroes set themselves a mackerel catch of 150,000 tonnes, up 75 per cent on 2010 and more than five times their agreed share in 2009. Iceland, who caught very little mackerel prior to 2008, set their own increased catch of around 147,000 tonnes last year.

In 2010 mackerel was Scotland’s most valuable catch, worth £113 million to the Scottish economy. Using the 2010 Scottish average landing price of £814 per tonne to give an illustrative example, the scientifically agreed landings of the North East Atlantic mackerel stock for 2011 and 2012 would be worth over £1 billion.