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Mackerel dispute moves to Brussels

EUROPEAN ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday will be discussing the ongoing mackerel dispute ahead of multilateral negotiations between EU, Norway, Iceland and the Faroes due to take place in London, on 12 October.

The Scottish government and the Scottish fishing industry are both pushing for the EU to take a strong negotiating stance in the long running saga.

The industry was up in arms when at the end of July the Faroe Islands set themselves a quota for mackerel of 85,000 tonnes for this year, more than three times their previous total allowable catch (TAC).

This followed on a recent decision by Iceland to declare themselves a unilateral quota of 130,000 tonnes.

Scottish fishermen’s leaders say the increase in unsustainable and damages Scotland’s most valuable fisheries.

Ian Gatt, the chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said Scottish fishermen were looking for the EU to follow the lead of Norway in banning the landing of Faroese mackerel into EU ports until the dispute is resolved.

He added: “It is essential that a fair and sensible agreement is reached at next month’s talks so as to ensure the future health of the mackerel stock whilst at the same time not jeopardising Scotland’s traditional share of the quota.

“With the support of the Scottish and UK fishing ministers, we are looking for the EC to give a clear indication that they will adopt a tough stance at next month’s talks.”

Meanwhile, Scottish fishing minister Richard Lochhead said that the Scottish government officials had taken part in a meeting between the EU and Iceland in Reykjavik earlier this week, to start the process of agreeing a solution.

The meeting re-established dialogue with Iceland and follows on from Scottish involvement in an EU meeting with the Faroes Islands earlier this month, the minister said.

“While it is encouraging that talks have been re-initiated with Iceland, actions speak louder than words. It is now critical that all parties demonstrate their desire to achieving a meaningful and fair resolution and commit to reasonable negotiations to achieve that outcome,” he added.