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Warning from Iceland

Mackerel fishing is worth more than £160 million to the Scottish economy - Photo: Seafood Scotland.

ICELAND’S chief negotiator on mackerel has warned the Scottish government to tone down its rhetoric in the long-running mackerel row after it emerged that quotas may be cut by as much as 15 per cent next year.

At the weekend the Scottish fisheries minister said that “irresponsible overfishing by Iceland and the Faroes” was now putting the viability of the Scottish fleet at risk.

Responding on Monday Sigurgeir Thorgeirsson said the minister should stop “throwing stones from inside the glasshouse”.

“Recent court rulings have revealed massive unreported landings of mackerel in Scottish ports in the past,” Mr Thorgeirsson said.

“This was to such an extent that it obviously had a significant impact on the mackerel stock and has been described as a major economic fraud.”

The failure to agree a multi-lateral agreement over mackerel fishing rights in the Northeast Atlantic has led to years of overfishing.

Norway and the EU blame Iceland and the Faroes for undermining historic fishing rights by setting too-high quotas. The two Scandinavian island states argue the fish has changed its behaviour and spends more time feeding in their territorial waters.

In 2012 around 800,000 tonnes of mackerel were caught in the area, well above the recommended limit of 639,000 tonnes.

For 2013 the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas recommends a Total Allowable Catch of 542,000 tonnes.

Mr Thorgeirsson said: “Iceland is and has always been committed to catching mackerel at a rate that protects the population and aligns with the advice of scientists.

“We recently proposed that the coastal states reduce next year’s catch by at least 20 per cent, a substantial decrease that would lead the way towards sustainable mackerel fishing.

“The responsibility of the stock lies with all the coastal states, and pointing a finger at one state rather than working together simply prevents us from finding a reasonable solution.”