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Time for the EU to get Tough on Mackerel as Negotiations with Iceland and Faroes Break Down

Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine expressed his extreme disappointment at the breakdown of talks in Iceland on the management of the mackerel stock in which Ireland has a major interest.

The meeting between the Coastal States from the European Union, Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands was the fifth convening of this forum since late Autumn 2011 to agree sharing and management arrangements for the €1 billion annual mackerel fishery.

The Minister said "It is extremely regrettable that after five rounds of consultations on arrangements for 2012, and four years of irresponsible fishing by Iceland and the Faroe Islands, that neither Iceland nor the Faroe Islands  showed any flexibility or real intent to compromise. Mackerel is Ireland's single most important fishery and Irish coastal communities have been traditionally dependant on this fishery for many decades. Iceland has no traditional dependence on this stock."

Over the course of the five rounds, the EU and Norway tabled three different proposals culminating in an offer of 7% for Iceland and 8% for the Faroe Islands with significant access to fish some of this quota in EU and Norwegian waters. This offer involves increases from the current share of 0.3% for Iceland and 3.5% for the Faroe Islands. 

The Minister commented "the Mackerel stock, which had been managed in a sustainable manner for many years by the EU and Norway, is now at risk of collapse as a direct result of the actions of Iceland and the Faroes. The actions of Iceland and the Faroe Island of pursuing an unrestrained mackerel fishery since 2008 with total disregard for responsible management and the scientific advice for the stock may result, if not challenged, in the collapse of the stock which will destroy the livelihoods of fishing communities dependant on this fishery in Ireland in both the fishing fleet and the many fish processing plants in Ireland."

He went on to say that "I fully accept that recent changes in the distribution of the stock justifies a modest upward revision of the sharing arrangements, but demands of 15% by Iceland and the Faroes are completely unjustifiable.  Their proposal at these negotiations, to set shares for 2012 based on last year's fishing activity, would reward both Iceland and the Faroes for their uncontrolled and irresponsible fishing in 2011. This demonstrates clearly their lack of serious intent to find a fair and equitable resolution for the management of the stock."

He added that "It is important to note that Iceland has only entered this fishery since 2008 and are now taking over 23% of the scientifically recommended fishing limit, while the Faroes have increased their catching levels six fold in two years. This is compared to Ireland, the second largest EU Member State in this fishery, whose share of the recommended TAC is around 10.5%. We have fished this stock for over 40 years and our Exclusive Fisheries Zone is where the vast majority of the mackerel spawning takes place. It is completely unacceptable to me that a candidate country for EU accession would behave in this manner gravely endangering jobs and livelihoods in a neighboring EU Member State while knowingly fishing in such an irresponsible way."

The Minister concluded by saying "I believe that the irresponsible actions of Iceland and the Faroes must not be allowed to continue. I will be working with other Ministers and Commissioner Damanaki to move quickly to find effective means to persuade Iceland and the Faroes to fundamentally re-examine their position in this matter. In that regard, I am fully supportive of the EU Commission's proposal to apply sanctions to countries that engage in irresponsible fishing practices and I will be working for the early adoption of these measures which are currently under discussion in Council and the European Parliament."

Date Released: 17 February 2012