Iceland PM battles EU mackerel sanctions

sigmundur-david-littleIceland’s prime minister has stated he believes that the European Commission will not enforce sanctions because of the country’s overfishing of mackerel. Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson was in Brussels on Tuesday and said Iceland was prepared to negotiate over mackerel quotas.

The PM stated that Iceland had practiced sustainable fishing in recent years and the amount of mackerel in the east Atlantic was ample evidence of this. He also said any sanctions imposed due to mackerel overfishing would be against the rules of the World Trade Organisation.

Iceland and the Faroe Islands have increased their total mackerel catches in the past seven years. The share of mackerel they jointly took out of the northeast area of the Atlantic Ocean was just five per cent in 2006.

If the countries catch the quota of mackerel they propose for 2013, their catch will be half of the total. Iceland says that due to warmer seas more mackerel are now found in their territorial waters and it is therefore entitled to higher quotas.

José Manuel Barroso, the EC president, gave a statement on Tuesday that seemed to indicate the commission would indeed impose sanctions. He stated that commissioners would look at all possible solutions and would take action before the end of July.

The president said the EU considered that mackerel stocks were at risk due to overfishing. Maria Damanaki, the EU commissioner for fisheries, had stated on Monday that allowing Iceland to set its own quotas could seriously deplete mackerel stocks in the region.