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Mackerel row heats up

THE WAR of words over Faroe’s controversial decision to triple its mackerel quota escalated after a Faroese fishing boat was stopped from unloading its catch at Peterhead this week.

The Jupiter tried to land 1,150 tonnes of mackerel, but was blocked by a group of local fishermen in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

On Wednesday the furious Faroese foreign minister Jørgen Niclasen wrote to Scottish first minister Alex Salmond calling on him to take urgent steps to stop future blockades.

He said the “relevant local authorities” failed to let the boat through on legitimate business, and the Jupiter’s catch is now headed for Faroe where it will have to be turned into fishmeal.

However speaking from Norway after meeting that country’s foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre, Mr Salmond made it clear that Scotland had no sympathy for Faroe’s plight.

Faroe caused outrage when it unilaterally increased its mackerel quota to 85,000 tonnes, following the example of Iceland who intend to catch 130,000 of the valuable species this year.

During a trade mission to Norway, Mr Salmond said Faroe and Iceland’s actions could devastate the sustainability of the mackerel stock and undermine Scotland’s credentials as the first large-scale mackerel fishery in Europe to be accredited by the Marine Stewardship Council.

The first minister said: “Scotland and Norway are in complete agreement that the governments of the Faroe Islands and Iceland have acted irresponsibly and are threatening global mackerel stocks by awarding such excessive quotas.

“The EU and Norway are strongly aligned on this issue having committed to a ten-year deal on mackerel management and shares in January 2010.

“This partnership will be absolutely vital in tackling Iceland and the Faroes in an effective manner that sends out a strong message to others that while responsible and innovative fisheries practices will be rewarded, those who don’t take conservation seriously will be dealt with in an appropriate manner.”

Mr Salmond called on the two island countries to be brought to task and any reduction in the mackerel quota for other countries could have “huge consequences” for the Scottish industry.

He praised European Union fishing commissioner Maria Damanaki for publicly denouncing the move and for calling for the matter to be raised in talks about Iceland joining the EU.

In his letter to Mr Salmond, Mr Niclasen said that any difference of views can only be resolved through a shared commitment by Faroe, the EU, Norway and Iceland to “ensuring sustainable fisheries management through international agreements reached at the negotiating table”.

Faroe has complained about being excluded from the EU-Norway talks on mackerel that led to an agreement where both sides agreed a quota in excess of scientific advice.