The European Union and Norway are publicly speaking out against Iceland’s decision to fish 130,000 tonnes of mackerel within its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone this year.
The EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands have for years co-operated on a deal whereby a unified mackerel quota is set and then shared by all three together. Iceland’s unilateral decision has caused the Faroe Islands to break away and set their own unilateral quota which far exceeds their old allowance.
Iceland barely caught any mackerel in its waters before this decade and scientists believe climate change is the reason the fish are now abundant all around Iceland.
In response to the new arrivals, Iceland repeatedly applied to join the trilateral quota agreement, but was knocked back several years in a row. Last year the country decided to catch 115,000 tonnes of mackerel without the EU or Norway’s permission. An Icelandic representative was swiftly allowed access to quota talks the following year; but an agreement has still not been reached.
The overall amount of mackerel being caught in the North Atlantic is considered unsustainable at the moment and an agreement needs to be made between all parties. The European Union has already suggested that trade sanctions against Iceland are not out of the question and fishermen in Scotland and Norway have already stopped at least two Faroese and Icelandic ships from landing their catch.
It is ironic that Iceland enjoys a much better reputation for managing its fish stocks than the EU does, while mackerel is one of very few fish stocks considered in good health by the EU, with Iceland considered the poorer steward.