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Anger as mackerel quota is set to be cut

THE SCOTTISH mackerel quota is likely to be cut by 15 per cent next year as scientists confirm that continued overfishing has already damaged the stock in the Northeast Atlantic.

As coastal states prepare for the next round of talks, due to commence in October, the latest advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) is already casting its shadow over the Scottish pelagic industry.

Scottish fishing minister Richard Lochhead said that “the irresponsible overfishing by Iceland and the Faroes” is now putting the viability of the Scottish fleet at risk.

For the last three years the EU, Norway and the two Scandinavian island states have failed to reach agreement over quota shares in the jointly fished mackerel stocks.

The Faroes has been bumping up its quota by five times its 2009 share to 148,375 tonnes in 2012, while Iceland increased its share to 45,000 tonnes, both arguing the fish had changed its behaviour and now feeds for longer periods in its territorial waters.

Last week, the European Union gave formal agreement to impose sanctions against the Faroes and Iceland in response to their actions.

Mr Lochhead said he was “deeply frustrated” by the whole affair and called on Iceland and the Faroes to enter into meaningful negotiations.

“For four years in a row now we have seen Iceland and the Faroes plundering the mackerel stock, setting their own vastly inflated quotas outwith international agreement – and as a result putting the future of our own fleet at risk.

“While Europe has finally brought forward sanction provisions, the process has taken far too long and this worrying scientific advice shows that much damage to the mackerel stock has already been done.

“Therefore it is infuriating and deeply frustrating that Scottish fishermen now face the prospect of reduced quotas.”

ICES recommends that the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for mackerel in 2013 should fall by 15 per cent from 639,000 tonnes to 542,000 tonnes.

Mackerel is the most valuable fish to the Scottish fishing industry, worth around £164 million a year, and Shetland is one of the most important harbours to land it. Last year, mackerel worth £56 million was landed in Lerwick alone.