Iceland announced Monday it is lowering its mackerel quota for 2013 by 15-percent, a unilateral move that has angered both its European fishing partners and environmentalists.
Steingrimur J Sigfusson, Iceland’s minister of industries and innovation, said the move is part of the country’s commitment to the “long-term sustainability” of fishing stocks, calling it his “top priority.”
Next season’s quota of 123,182 tons is in accordance with guidelines set by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the oldest intergovernmental organization in the world concerned with marine and fisheries science.
Sigfusson also said in an interview with RÚV that his quota decision is a natural reaction to the EU’s and Norway’s unilateral issuing of quotas comprising 90-percent of the catch for themselves.
Atlantic populations of mackerel have been moving further north west into the waters of Iceland and the Faeroe Islands over the recent years. Both Norway and the European Union have already lowered their fishing quotas by 15-percent.
The estimated total mackerel catch by the European Union, Norway, Iceland, Faroe Islands and Russia was 920,000 tons in 2012.
But the reduction has been made to hide Iceland’s take of the mackerel supply “remains excessively high, before and after the reduction,” claims the European Commission in a statement quoted by the BBC.
Scotland, where the bulk of the UK fishing industry is located, accused Iceland of over-fishing, calling the unilateral reduction “disappointing.”
“It is important to highlight that while Iceland’s share allocation demands are based on 15-percent of the total catch, the actual quota they have set themselves is close to 23-percent,” said Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, in an interview with Herald Scotland.
Lochhead also called for an independent third party to be appointed to solve the dispute and the European Union to “deliver on promised action.”
Sigfusson blasted Lochead’s words as “propoganda” and while the dispute is “unfortunate,” a lot of the blame goes on the European Union and Norway. The EU will study the stock size next summer to see if there really are 1 – 1.5 million tons of mackerel in Icelandic waters, he said.