Irish MEP Pat ‘the Cop’ Gallagher has urged the European Commission to impose sanctions on Iceland, saying that the North Atlantic nation has been fishing mackerel in a “reckless and indiscriminate manner”.
Gallagher, who was speaking in front of the European Parliament, said that a ‘five-deal’ had been signed last Wednesday between the EU, the Faroe Islands and Norway on the sharing of North East Atlantic mackerel. However, Iceland refused to be part of any deal and withdrew from negotiations.
The mackerel dispute has now been raging on for around five years, with Iceland claiming in 2009 that a mackerel migration led to more mackerel being in the region.
Gallagher was satisfied that the Irish fishing industry has had its mackerel quota raised from 57,000 tonnes last year to more than 105,000 tonnes this year. This is an increase of 60 per cent on the provisional quota Ireland was issued at the beginning of 2014.
However, the MEP was disappointed with the way Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki dealt with the situation. He claimed if she had imposed sanctions on Iceland in 2013, the current situation, with Iceland refusing to cooperate, would be different.
Iceland’s share of mackerel catches went up from one per cent in 2006 to 23 per cent last year. Meanwhile, the Faroe Islands’ share increased from 4.6 per cent to 29.3 per cent during the same period.
Gallagher insists a long-term solution is needed to ensure the mackerel stock is sustained. He explained that Iceland and the Faroese were responsible for overfishing blue whiting in the past, resulting in its stock in the North East Atlantic collapsing. He said this proves what can happen if nothing is done to prevent overfishing.