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Faroese position on mackerel

ANY NEW management deal for the valuable mackerel fishery in the north-east Atlantic will need to reflect the changed migratory and feeding habits of the fish, according to Jógvan Jespersen the chief executive of the Faroese Pelagic Organisation.

Speaking on Monday, Mr Jespersen expressed his hopes that a multilateral deal between the EU, Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands could be reached should all parties be willing to compromise during new talks scheduled for the end of the month.

In July this year, Faroe increased its mackerel quota from 25,000 to 85,000 after talks failed earlier that year, and Norway and the EU set a bilateral quota, which according to Mr Jespersen amounted to 110 per cent of the recommended catch allowance for the whole area.

The bitter dispute that followed has led to anti-Faroese feelings in Scotland, where the UK’s pelagic fleet is based. According to the Scottish government, the mackerel fishery is now the most valuable in the country.

But Mr Jespersen said it was the EU and Norway’s own fault that no agreement for 2010 had been reached, adding that his county had no other choice than setting its own catch allowance.

For some years, Faroese delegations attending the annual mackerel talks had been making calls for a fairer share of the stock, as it had altered its behaviour and could now be found for longer periods of time in Farose waters.

“Our position is that the EU and Norway have withdrawn from the agreement in the north-east Atlantic and have gone to a position we had before the year 2000.

“They agreed a bilateral quota in January 2010 without consulting the Faroe Islands.

“We only set our own quota in July this year after the Faroese fishing minister failed to reach an agreement following further talks and Norway and Brussels. At that time the EU had set its quota, as had Norway and Iceland,” Mr Jespersen told the Shetland News.

He said the Faroese position was to claim a 15 per cent share of the 570,000 tonnes recommended by ICES for 2010, and that is what they had done by setting their own quota at 85,000 tonnes.

He added: “The mackerel stock has changed its migration pattern. It now further north and further west and very limited in Norwegian waters. To a very large extent it is in Faroese waters between May and September each year.

“The Faroe Islands think the time has come to look at this again. All four parties should have equal opportunities, but if you look at the quota for 2010, Norway and the EU have set a quota of almost 110 per cent of the recommended catch allowance.”

He asked: “So what was left for the Faroe Islands, what was left for Iceland?”

And he disputed allegation that the Faroese action had been unsustainable damaging the mackerel stock in the region.

He said ICES recommendation is for an increase of between four and 13 per cent on the current total allowable catch (TAC), which means up to 646,000 tonnes of mackerel could be caught in the north-east Atlantic in 2011.

“ICES recommendation for 2011 is that even more mackerel can be taken in 2011. In my opinion, the 2010 mackerel fishing was sustainable.”

Following the last round of talks earlier this month he said positions had shifted slightly as he could sense some understanding for the Faroese position.

“I hope that we can achieve an agreement. That is what we want. Faroe can not resolve this conflict alone, the EU and Norway also have to contribute to a solution,” he said.