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Mackerel lost opportunity

NORTH Atlantic mackerel will be caught outside any international agreement for another year after interstate talks collapsed for the fifth time, this time over a disagreement about fishing in Greenland waters.

Shetland Fish Producers Organisation confirmed on Thursday that their vessels had completed their winter catch, and had done so in what is regarded as within safe biological boundaries.

New talks are not expected to resume before the autumn, after the Faroese and Icelandic fleets have caught their hugely increased quotas during the summer months.

The Scottish and Irish fleets will again start chasing the migratory fish from October onwards once it has re-entered EU waters.

The impact of the unregulated fishery may be softened by the unusually high scientific recommendation of almost 900,000 tonnes of Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for 2014, an increase of 64 per cent.

However EU scientists have warned that the situation is not sustainable despite the healthy stock levels.

Earlier this week it looked as though an agreement in the long running saga could be possible during two days of talks in Edinburgh.

According to observers “they have come close” but eventually “failed over minor issues”.

According to press reports, it was the intention of both the EU and Iceland to fish for mackerel in Greenland waters that caused the talks to collapse.

Greenland, which has increased its experimental quota for mackerel to 100,000 tonnes in 2014, is a relatively new partner in the talks. Many of the Greenlandic quotas are held by Icelandic interests.

The EU and Norway will now negotiate bilateral mackerel quotas.

EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki

Fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki said a “golden opportunity” had been lost.

“As chair, the EU tabled a compromise proposal that was accepted by Iceland and the Faroe Islands but was rejected by Norway,” she explained.

“The Commission considers that conditions were ideal for a deal to be reached and positions were very close.

“In light of the degree of agreement reached during the coastal state negotiations, the EU calls on Iceland and the Faroe Islands to also show responsibility in the level of fishing opportunities they will now set unilaterally, to secure the future sustainability of the stock.”

Scottish fishing minister Richard Lochhead said it was disappointing that a deal had not been reached.

“This seemed like the best chance in a while to get a deal done and the longer this continues the greater the uncertainty faced by our fishermen.

“Every country involved in these talks have a responsibility to our fishermen to try and break this deadlock as soon as possible.”

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