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Portmann adding that 'a good proportion' of it risked ending up in British supermarkets

Iceland accused of threatening sustainability of mackerel stocks

Click on the flag for more information about United Kingdom UNITED KINGDOM
Friday, November 22, 2019, 06:50 (GMT + 9)

Leaked document says fishing surge in international waters poses long-term risks

Iceland has been accused of threatening the long-term sustainability of vital mackerel stocks after unilaterally increasing its catches in the international waters of the north-east Atlantic.

In a damning leaked document agreed at a meeting in London in October, the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands lambasted Reykjavik’s decision to significantly raise its quota without consultation. Russia and Greenland were also criticised.

“The delegations deeply regret the decision of Iceland in 2019 to increase its unilateral quota to levels well in excess of its previous claims, which are disputed by the delegations,” the document states.

“Such action, which has no scientific justification, undermines the efforts made by the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands to promote long-term sustainability of the stock and the decision not to revise upwards the total allowable catch in 2019.”

Distribution of Atlantic mackerel (blue area). The red star indicates the Isfjorden and Kongsfjorden areas of Svalbard. The black line shows the previous northern distribution limit, and orange indicates known spawning areas. Source: Jørgen Berge

The three said they “further regret that Iceland chose not to engage with its international partners” before “substantially increasing” its catch, and criticised similar, though less significant, unilateral quota increases by Russia and Greenland.

The escalating dispute echoes the cod wars of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, when the UK and Iceland clashed repeatedly and sometimes violently over Reykjavik’s ultimately successful efforts to restrict access to its rich fisheries by expanding the limits of its national waters, or exclusive economic zone.

Mackerel is the UK fishing industry’s most important stock, worth more than half a billion pounds a year. Historically, it has been shared with other coastal states whose waters the mackerel pass through – notably the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands.

Scomber scombrus - Atlantic mackerel (Seafish image)

Each year, independent scientists at the International Committee for Exploration of the Sea recommend the total catch levels – generally about 1m tonnes – that can be safely taken in national and international waters to protect the stock’s health.

The North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), made up of the EU, Norway and Denmark – representing the Faroe Islands and Greenland – plus Iceland and Russia, is then supposed to manage and enforce that limit.

Iceland, Russia and Greenland, however, do not agree quotas and in effect set their own limits, leaving the remaining members to cut their annual catch by about 15% to offset the activities of the other three, particularly in international waters.

Large UK fish retailers, including the big supermarket chains, were due to meet in London this week in part to discuss what action to take about the surge in unregulated mackerel catch, Portmann said, adding that “a good proportion” of it risked ending up in British supermarkets.

Author: Jon Henley /The Guardian  (Read the whole article here)

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