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Sanctions on herring welcomed

Chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, Ian Gatt.
SIC political leader Gary Robinson - Photo: Millgaet Media

NEWS that Europe is edging closer towards sanctions against Faroe and Iceland in the bitter row over herring and mackerel quotas in the northeast Atlantic has been welcomed by fishermen’s leaders and by Shetland Islands Council.

Late on Monday, it emerged that the European fisheries council had outlined a scheme to initially impose sanctions against Faroe on Atlanto-Scandian herring.

The council’s political leader Gary Robinson said: “The European Commission has been slow to act after Faroe and Iceland unilaterally set their own unsustainable quotas for mackerel and herring; however this news is welcome nonetheless.

“Shetland fishermen worked extremely hard in order to gain Marine Stewardship Council accreditation for the mackerel fishery only to see it removed thanks to the irresponsible actions of Faroe and Iceland.

“They must get back around the negotiating table now to discuss sustainable quotas based on sound scientific data rather than their own short-sighted financial and economic considerations.”

Chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, Ian Gatt, said he hoped the measure would provide new impetus to help resolve the issue, but also called for further tough action.

“We believe that any sanctions brought against Faroe for the overfishing of the Atlanto-Scandian herring stock should also apply to mackerel because they catch both species together in what is essentially a mixed fishery.

“We are disappointed there has been no further significant movement with regards to implementing sanctions against both Iceland and the Faroes for their over catching of mackerel.

“In the case of Iceland, we urge the EC to seek an urgent meeting with the new Icelandic government to try and get the negotiating process moving again.

“If this does not happen, then sanctions must immediately be implemented as a matter of course because every other avenue will have been reasonably explored without there being any breakthrough in resolving this dispute,” he said.

European fishing nations have been at loggerheads with the two Scandinavian island states for four years after multi lateral quota negotiations on herring and mackerel broke down.

Both Faroe and Iceland claim that herring and mackerel shoals have changed their behaviour and are feeding more in their national waters.

They have subsequently allocated themselves significantly larger shares of the jointly managed stocks.

Europe and Norway accuse the two island states of irresponsible overfishing and have been demanding sanctions from Europe for some time.

Following the fisheries council meeting on Monday, Scotland’s fishing minister Richard Lochhead said the meeting had agreed to impose sanctions against Faroe on herring but to seek further legal advice on mackerel.

The EU sanctions on Faroe in relation to herring could:

  • prevent import of herring into the EU;
  • prevent vessels that fish for herring landing into the EU;
  • prevent EU vessels going to fish for herring in Faroese waters.

The EU will also seek an early meeting to discuss the situation with the new Icelandic government. 

Lochhead said: “It is good news that at long last we have real movement towards sanctions that will see the irresponsible fishing of Faroe punished. 

“The sanctions discussed today (Monday) will stop the sale of unsustainably caught herring in EU markets as well as stopping EU boats fishing for herring unsustainably under the Faroese flag. 

“This should help reduce the damage inflicted to date on our fish stocks.

“Our fishermen fully deserve the protection these sanctions will give them.  But it is disappointing that no firm action has yet been agreed in relation to Iceland and Faroe consistently over fishing mackerel, and I hope that will come shortly.”