Brexit and mackerel on ministers’ agenda

BREXIT and issues over mackerel will be high on the agenda when Per Sandberg, Norway’s fisheries minister, meets his Scottish counterpart, Fergus Ewing, in Edinburgh tomorrow.
Sandberg, who will also meet representatives of Scottish fishing organisations, said: ‘With Britain exiting the EU it is important for Norway to keep the good co-operation with our neighbours on the other side of the North Sea.
‘A good relationship does not come by itself, but I have good contact with my colleagues in the British Isles.’
Norway and its fishing industry is anxious to secure a trade deal with the UK once it leaves Europe.
But there are more immediate issues between the two countries which will feature in discussions. Sandberg is expected to raise concerns over Scottish plans to give its fishermen a larger share of the mackerel quota.
Norwegian buyers say they could lose mackerel worth more than one billion kroners (£97 million) because they claim the Scottish government is encouraging its fishermen to land more fish in Scotland.
Norwegian fishermen claim Fergus Ewing recently sent out a letter to the Scottish fishing organisations saying he wants to withhold 12 per cent of the mackerel quota to provide an increased share for the Scottish fleet and to give more mackerel to Scottish processing plants.
But Inger Marie Stopper from Seafood Norway said last month that Norwegian fish buyers primarily want free competition, not restrictive measures.
Norway would view it very seriously if Scotland introduced schemes that prevented raw material from its fleet from being landed in Norway.
‘The fight to acquire suitable raw materials is the biggest challenge we face in the Norwegian fishing industry,’ she said.
Foreign fishermen delivered 107,000 tonnes of mackerel worth more than a billion kroners to Norwegian fish buyers last year. Of that, by far the largest share, totalling 81,000 tonnes, came from Scottish and Shetland fishermen.
Per Sandberg is on record as saying: ‘We are principled supporters of free trade and we are concerned about the introduction of any scheme that would punish fishermen who land catches in other countries.’
He may also raise joint concerns over the so called Faroese quota grab of pelagic fish which Scotland says makes a mockery of international fisheries management.
Picture: Fergus Ewing