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Iceland mackerel blockade “not enough”

THE SCOTTISH Pelagic Fishermen’s Association has welcomed the EU’s intension to impose a ban on Icelandic boats landing mackerel at European ports, but also called for stronger action.

The proposals were put forward by the EU chair of the European Economic Area, of which Iceland is a member, following the bitter row over mackerel quotas in the north east Atlantic which led to Iceland setting a unilateral quota of 146,818 tonnes.

The move was dismissed by the Icelandic fishing industry who said they would never land fresh mackerel into European ports anyhow.

A UK industry insider confirmed that statement to be true, and described the move as a “typical EU measure”.

What would hurt, he said, would be a ban on importing high quality fish meal and oil from Icelandic mackerel.

That view was echoed by Ian Gatt, the chief executive of the SPFA. He said: “We welcome this move by the EU as an important first step and we would like to see the sanctions increased further to cover frozen mackerel imports and also fishmeal made from unsustainably caught Icelandic mackerel.

“We would also like the same sanctions to apply to the Faroes. They are not a member of the EEA so a quick co-decision-making process by the European Parliament and the EC is required to ensure that the Faroese will also face sanctions for their irresponsible behaviour.

“In addition, talks by Iceland to join the EU should be suspended as it is unthinkable that such negotiations should continue until a resolution to the dispute is reached that satisfies the member states concerned.”

Meanwhile, Scottish fishing minister Richard Lochhead said that he hope negotiations with Iceland, and the Faroe Islands, could be reconvened to reach a multilateral agreement.

“Scotland’s overarching priority remains the agreement of a new four-party deal to safeguard the future of the mackerel stock. Therefore, I welcome Iceland’s indication that they are willing to resume talks and hope that they will come back to the table as a matter of urgency.

“We will continue to work closely with the EU to explore every avenue that could lead to further talks and a new international mackerel agreement.

“However, we cannot give in to unreasonable demands or reward irresponsible behaviour and that is why it is important we have the mechanisms in place to allow sanctions if parties continue to behave unreasonably.”