Yesterday, the European Union, Norway and the Faroe Islands reached an agreement on the total allowable catch and sharing of quotas of the mackerel stock. Iceland was excluded from the agreement following a meeting in Edinburgh last week at which Iceland stressed the importance of reaching an agreement in line with the advice of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). The agreement, in which the three parties allocate themselves a total of 1,047,000 tonnes this year, is valid for five years. This allocation exceeds the advice of the ICES by almost 18%. The EU and Norway have allocated solely for themselves 890,000 tonnes, which is the maximum advised total allowable catch for this year.
Minister Johannsson stated: “We participated in the negotiations in order to ensure Iceland's fair share, based on scientific advice and sustainable utilisation of the mackerel stock. The Faroese clearly sought an increased quota compared to the last agreement. Yesterday's agreement means that the EU and Norway increase their share to 100% of the ICES recommended quota, i.e. 890,000 tonnes, on to which they add the share of the Faroe Islands.”
In autumn of 2013, Iceland and the EU had reached an agreement on an allocation to Iceland based on sustainable utilization of the mackerel stock. The agreement entailed that Iceland's share would never be less than 11.9% of the total allowable and scientifically advised catch, and for the next two years, the catch would not be under 123,000 tonnes, which is approximately equivalent to 13,8% of the advice this year.
Minister Johannsson added: “We were ready to stretch ourselves this far in order to reach an agreement on the sustainable use of the stock as the opportunity to do so was unique in light of the advice on a greatly increased total allowable catch. The EU assured us that they would procure what was needed to reach an agreement, including the support of Norway. In the later phase of the negotiations, however, it was clear that the EU moved closer to the demands of Norway, which were based on an increase in the catch considerably beyond the scientific advice. Thus, the EU has gone back on its word and instead of upholding the agreement reached with Iceland, based on sustainable fishing, the Union has signed an agreement with Norway and the Faroe Islands, which promotes fishing greatly exceeding advice. The agreement takes no account of fishing by Iceland, Greenland and Russia so it is clear that the total catch could exceed 50% of the ICES advice.”
“During the last meetings, Iceland did its utmost to make an agreement possible. It is clear that Norway never intended to negotiate an acceptable share for Iceland nor a deal on the basis of scientific advice. At the last meeting of the four Coastal States Norway raised as a distraction the fishing of Greenland and how to block Greenland's opportunity to build up their fisheries in light of the increased number of mackerel in their waters. This among other things led the EU to abandon its agreement with Iceland. Norway was thus able to block an agreement on that basis and was able to realize its demand for a share exceeding over half the advice.”
Iceland and the Faroe Islands have had to endure threats of sanctions by the EU, should they not cease what the EU deemed to be overfishing. Minister Johannsson says it is absolutely clear that those threats and proposed sanctions are unlawful and that the agreement signed by the EU will ultimately result in overfishing. To continue threats to impose sanctions based on overfishing would be contradictory. “We have always stressed the importance of reaching an agreement which follows scientific advice”, Minister Johannsson added.
He concluded: “The methods used to reach this agreement are unacceptable. We believe that by going behind Iceland's back in reaching this agreement, the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands have forfeited trust and greatly impaired future cooperation and negotiations of the Coastal States.”
No decision has been made on the total allowable catch of Icelandic vessels but it is expected within the coming weeks.