Sanctions levied against Iceland by the European Union over a long-standing mackerel dispute has received the support of Scottish fishermen.
As reported, mackerel fishing has been a contentious subject 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 have repeatedly threatened to issue punitive measures if Iceland does not reverse its policy.
Last September, the EU parliament approved a measure that includes a number of sanctions against Iceland and the Faeroe Islands, to be enforced at the discretion of the directorship of the EU.
The Guardian now reports that the measure has received the support of Scottish fishermen.
The sanctions threat is being supported by Scottish skippers who fear the amount of mackerel they can catch could be slashed if Iceland, and also the Faroe Islands, continue to award themselves huge quotas. Mackerel is Scotland’s most valuable fish, with £164m-worth landed in 2011 out of a total UK landed catch of £205m.
Ian Gatt, of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said the EU and Norway had made “improved offers” but there had been “no response or counter offer” from Iceland and Faroe. “The point we have come to is that simple negotiation doesn’t work. It needs another tool, and for us that tool would be implementing sanction measures, because the level of quotas Iceland and Faroe have set themselves is absolutely crazy.”
Steve Norton, chief executive of the Grimsby Fish Merchants Association, takes the long view of the disagreement, telling reporters, “I am not scaremongering, and I personally believe the sanctions threat is just a blunt instrument to get people back to the table. But potentially we are at risk, if this was to go wrong and sanctions were imposed. It’s a crazy situation we find ourselves in, not of our making.”
However, Iceland’s UK ambassador, Benedikt Jónsson, told reporters that threats were not going to accomplish much.
“Fish is the backbone of our economy,” he said. “It is to Iceland what oil is to Norway, wine to France and the City to the UK. The best thing to block any agreement in mackerel is to propose sanctions. No nation will yield to threats of this nature.”