EU tackles Iceland over 'mackerel wars'

Island nation and Faroes face trade sanctions over rising catches of fish

Brussels

The European Union is about to launch its
fiercest salvo yet in the so-called “mackerel wars”, finally opening sanctions
proceedings against Iceland and the Faroe Islands over their rising catches of
mackerel and herring, which have led to fears of overfishing.

The move marks a significant escalation in the battle between the Icelandic government, which argues that its fishing industry is both sustainable and crucial to the economy, and the EU, which is seeking to protect future fish stocks.

The EU Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, had given a deadline of the end of July for a decision on whether to propose sanctions against Iceland, and sources at the European Commission said they were now preparing to go ahead with the measures. “Internally the procedure against Iceland has been launched,” an official close to the talks said.

Sanctions would include a ban on Icelandic mackerel catches landing or transiting in EU ports and potentially a ban on exports of mackerel products to the bloc. The Commission will notify Iceland and give them the chance to put forward their case, before EU member states vote on the issue.

The process against the Faroe Islands over their herring quotas is more advanced, with the EU fisheries committee due to vote on Wednesday. With Britain, Ireland, Spain, France and Portugal all supporting sanctions, it is expected to get the majority needed to pass, meaning the punitive measure could be in place in weeks.

Both cases mark the first time the EU has used a new trade sanctions tool introduced to tackle the Mackerel Wars, which erupted in 2009 when Iceland – not a member of the EU – unilaterally set their mackerel quota at 112,000 tonnes. This caused outrage among EU nations, and particularly in the Scottish fishing industry which relies heavily on mackerel. Up until 2009, quotas had been jointly agreed between the EU, Norway, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands.

Ms Damanaki, who has spearheaded reform of the EU's fishing policy to reverse decades of overfishing, has said the bloc “cannot permit unilateral actions that can destroy the stocks.”

But Iceland and the Faroe Islands argue that a rise in sea temperatures caused by a combination of global warming and natural factors has sent mackerel and herring shoals further north, and the allocations should have been amended to reflect this.

The rise of Iceland’s riches at sea over the past few years has coincided with economic disaster on land, as the country’s banking sector collapsed. There were stories of Icelandic fishermen who had given up their trade to become stockbrokers during the boom. But when the banks fell, the government encouraged the nation to return to their roots in fishing to help the economy to recover.

“Fishing is more important for Iceland than the car industry for Germany or the oil industry for Norway,” Sigurgeir Thorgeirsson, Iceland’s chief fisheries negotiator, told The Independent.

Many people heeded the government's call and as Iceland’s ability to bring in more fish rose, so did its self-regulated quota.

Mr Thorgeirsson argues that Iceland’s historical allocation of the mackerel catch does not reflect the number of the species now feeding in its waters. Its catch has risen from practically nothing in 2006 to a peak of nearly 155,000 tons in 2011. It is prepared to lower its quotas, Mr Thorgeirsson said, but only after fair negotiation with the other countries fighting for a share of the bounty. While he said on Friday that he was not aware of the EU’s decision to recommend sanctions, he warned “the reaction will be quite harsh”.

The Faroe Islands unilaterally set their herring quota at 105,000 tonnes for the first time this year, citing the refusal of the other fishing nations to renegotiate their current allocation of five per cent. Kate Sanderson, the head of mission in Brussels for the Faroe Islands, said she was “pessimistic” about the outcome of Wednesday's vote. If the vote went against them, she said the Faroese government would look at legal measures to challenge the decision.

Suggested Topics
News
Mickey Rourke celebrates his victory against opponent Elliot Seymour
people
News
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
News
Actor Burt Reynolds last year
people
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game