EU prepares to act against Iceland over mackerel dispute
European Commission president José Manuel Barroso has said that the European Union is ready to take action against Iceland by the end of the month for its continued fishing of mackerel.
After a meeting with Sigmundur Davíd Gunnlaugsson, Iceland’s prime minister, yesterday (16 July), Barroso said the EU is considering “all possible measures” to resolve the problem.
Gunnlaugsson struck a defiant tone after the meeting saying it was “unlikely” that the European Union would impose sanctions, as this would violate World Trade Organisation rules.
The dispute began when Iceland decided unilaterally to up their mackerel catch in the Northeast Atlantic to a level that would account for 50% of total catch. They say this is justified because of an increase in the mackerel population around the island after fish began migrating to the north because the water was warmer there.
The mackerel issue was discussed at a meeting of fisheries ministers in Brussels on Monday (15 July). Maria Damanaki, European commissioner for fisheries told journalists after the meeting that the EU will take a decision by the end of the month on whether to start infringement action against Iceland for its fishing of mackerel.
A decision will also be taken by the end of the month on ramping up action against the Faroe Islands for their continued fishing of herring. The EU has already sent a letter of formal notice to the islands, the first step in infringement.
Damanaki said the issues were discussed with the two countries during Monday’s meeting of fisheries ministers in Brussels, but that the two countries are not willing to reach an agreement. She said the EU was working toward a compromise, “but we cannot permit unilateral actions that can destroy the stock which are there because of the efforts of the EU and our fishermen.”
“We cannot lose this fishing year because of Iceland and Faroe Islands, we cannot wait until next year,” she added. “We have to take action now.”
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s fisheries minister, sent out a tweet after the meeting saying Damanaki “has agreed to prepare for trade restrictions against Iceland to force a resolution on overfishing of mackerel.”