The long-standing dispute over North Atlantic mackerel stocks has reached a settlement, albeit with Iceland left out of the loop.
According to an announcement on the European Commission’s home page, a five-year agreement on mackerel quotas was reached between the European Union, Norway and the Faeroe Islands. These parties have been disputing their respective mackerel quotas since at least 2010.
EU Commissioner Maria Damanaki said of the agreement, “This is a significant day for international fisheries. This landmark agreement testifies to the EU’s commitment to sustainable fishing at home and abroad. The talks were long and intensive but given the potential risk to the stock, the stakes could not have been much higher. This agreement ensures the long term sustainability of this valuable stock. The door is still open for Iceland to join the other Parties in the near future.”
However, news of the agreement was not exactly warmly welcomed by Icelandic authorities.
Foreign Affairs Committee chairperson Birgir Ármannsson told RÚV that news of the agreement came as a surprise to him. Minister of Foreign Affairs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson was less diplomatic about the situation, telling reporters in light of the news:
“We have been wondering what kind of secretive talks have been going on whilst we thought we were talking part in honourable and positive discussions with the European Union and the Faeroes. It seems to be that another kind of agreement was being worked on behind the scenes, and that it has come to light now.” Gunnar Bragi also wondered what, if any, mackerel quota would be left for Icelanders if they did decide to join the agreement.
In answer to his question, a closer look at the agreement shows that some 186,000 tonnes of mackerel are still unaccounted for in the quota agreement, and Iceland could possibly take a part of this remainder for themselves.
Elisabeth Aspaker, the fishing minister of Norway, spoke frankly on the matter at a press conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, saying that Icelanders prevented an agreement from being reached sooner. Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, in turn accused the EU of going back on their word, from informal talks last autumn, that Iceland could begin fishing mackerel for self-sustaining purposes.
For more on Iceland’s mackerel dispute, see also:
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