The European Union (EU) is expected to ban landings of Icelandic mackerel from all EU ports on Friday in the latest round of a feud over catch quotas.
In the absence of a fish quota deal with the EU last year, Iceland unilaterally upped its mackerel quota six-fold – absorbing the bulk of the available North Atlantic Stock. The move infuriated the Scottish fishing industry and triggered calls for the European Commission (EC) to intervene.
EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki is now expected to tell Iceland in Brussels that the ban will apply immediately on all fishing vessels flying the Icelandic flag and trying to land their mackerel catches at any EU port.
Ahead of the meeting of the European Economic Area (EEA) Joint Committee – the 27 EU nations plus Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein – Scottish Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson said: “I fully support the Commission in taking this dramatic step. The behaviour of Iceland over North East Atlantic mackerel stocks has been grossly irresponsible.
“They were warned that any failure to agree reasonable terms for the future sharing of this migratory species would provoke a serious backlash from the EU. But instead of reducing their catch to a reasonable level they have brazenly increased it further this year to 147,000 tonnes.”
The move follows Norway’s implementation of its own unilateral ban on the Icelandic fleet in July last year.
Mr Stevenson, senior vice president of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, went on: “The only way to end this blockade will be for Iceland to return to the negotiating table with a reasonable compromise proposal.
“Their smash-and-grab approach, which has seen the Icelandic mackerel catch rise from a mere 363 tonnes in 2005 to a mammoth 147,000 tonnes this year, is just not acceptable.”
Last September, UK fisheries minister Richard Benyon rejected a letter from the Icelandic government trying to justify the increase and suggested a European port blockade of Icelandic boats as “a bargaining tool”.
He said at the time: “Iceland chose to unilaterally award itself an increased quota nearly six times what it had fished in recent years. This is unacceptable behaviour that places a substantial burden on the fishery and could seriously undermine its long-term sustainability.”