Icelandic Minister Pens Column For Wall Street Journal

12.12.2012
Words by Paul Fontaine
Iceland's Minister of Industry and Innovation, Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal on a contentious subject that has caused trouble between Iceland and the European Union: mackerel.

Mackerel fishing has been a hot topic between Iceland and the EU. While Iceland maintains a quota that they believe is sustainable, EU leaders have said Iceland is overfishing the stocks, and last September, the EU parliament passed a measure issuing sanctions against Iceland over the matter.

In a column written for the Wall Street Journal, Steingrímur articulates Iceland's point of view on mackerel fishing:
At present, each country sets a voluntary quota on the amount of mackerel it will catch. But because the quotas are self-imposed and there is no limit on the collective catch, mackerel is being overfished.

That's not good for anyone. Yet instead of looking for a solution that grants everyone a fair share, certain EU states are blaming Iceland, demanding that it alone reduce its catch. ... Sustainable fisheries are essential to Iceland's livelihood, and we are proud of our small nation's track record in this area. The countries that have rejected our efforts to resolve this issue are undercutting the health of our fishing industry and jeopardizing the livelihood of many thousands of our fishermen and their families who depend on the longevity of the mackerel stock.
Steingrímur recommends rather that "interim measures" be taken until a long-term solution can be found, suggesting that "each coastal state to reduce its catch next year by 15-20%". This, he says, EU leaders have rejected, leaving a situation that is unfortunate for all parties involved.

"Iceland does not object to the EU's efforts to fight overfishing," Steingrímur says. "We are deeply troubled, however, that the EU refuses to acknowledge that its member states take an oversized proportion of the catch. Targeting Iceland will not lead to better collaboration over this shared resource. Sanctions should be reserved for rogue states and harmful regimes, not for a close ally."

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