Mackerel Dispute Questions and Answers
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- What is the background to the dispute?
For the last four years Iceland and the Faroes have set themselves massive autonomous quotas for mackerel outwith any international agreement despite having little track record in catching the fish prior to 2008. UK, EU and Norwegian fleets have been sustainably fishing for mackerel for many years and manage the stock carefully under the auspices of a coastal states agreement.
- What does this mean in terms of catches and sustainability?
The EU and Norway has been managing its mackerel catches sustainably in line with scientific advice (hence the robust health of the stock), whilst Iceland has increased its mackerel quota since 2005 by around 40,000%. Faroe has increased its catch by around 789%. These are totally unsustainable increases and are a negotiating ploy to get as much fish as possible should a compromise deal ever be reached.
- Do mackerel spawn in Icelandic and Faroese waters?
According to the scientific results of the last mackerel egg survey 99% of the mackerel stock spawn their eggs in the EU zone. Most of the spawning occurs in the traditional core area which is on the continental shelf west of Scotland and Ireland.
- Where do juvenile mackerel spend the first three years of their life before joining the migratory stock?
They spend the first three years of their lives in the EU/Norway fishing zone and are an integral part of the marine ecosystem in this region.
- Once they have reached maturity, how long does the migratory mackerel stock spend in each Coastal States EEZ?
Mackerel is distributed for around three months of the year during the summer months in the Icelandic, Faroese and Norwegian zone. For the other 9 months, between September and May the stock is in the EU sector.
- How do the EU/Norway mackerel fisheries compare with Iceland/Faroes for bycatches of other species?
It is reported that Atlantic herring is caught in considerable quantities by Icelandic and Faroese vessels during certain times during the mackerel season. EU and Norwegian mackerel fisheries have almost no bycatch of other species.
- How have Coastal States quota allocations developed over the last 7 years?
EU and Norwegian quotas are set in line with the ICES scientific advice and in accordance with the management plan agreed by Coastal States. Icelandic catches totalled 363t in 2005 and escalated by 40,000% to 145,000t in 2011. Faroese catches were also set in accordance with the management plan until 2009. However, since then catches have steeply risen by 789% to 150,000 tonnes in 2011.
- How have Coastal States fisheries developed in regard to marketing?
EU and Norwegian catches are all sold for the human consumption market. In contrast some of the Icelandic and Faroese catches are reduced for fishmeal and oil products.
- Have the parties involved in the mackerel dispute increased vessel numbers fishing the mackerel stock?
EU and Norwegian fleet numbers have remained fairly constant. Iceland vessels numbers have increased due to a significant number of whitefish vessels being allocated new mackerel quotas. Faroe Islands has also increased its mackerel catching capacity by licensing whitefish vessels and inviting foreign fleets from Russia, Peru and China to participate in their fishery.
- How many mackerel negotiation meetings have taken place since the dispute started?
It’s difficult to pin down exactly how many meetings have taken place as some have been regarded as part meetings, however, the general consensus would indicate around 15 rounds of talks have taken place.
- Have the parties moved their quota sharing position since the dispute started?
EU and Norway have recognised that Iceland and Faroe Islands should have a larger quota share in the mackerel fishery by offering to compromise through reducing their own share. Iceland and Faroe Islands have not shown enthusiasm to reduce their quota demands from 15% each of the total allocation. Although their share allocation demands are based on 15% each, the actual quota setting so far by Iceland and Faroe has been based on a figure close to 23% each.
- How many offers have the EU & Norway made to Iceland and how many counter offers has Iceland tabled?
It’s known that EU and Norway have made several increased share offers to both Iceland and Faroe Islands. Neither Iceland nor Faroe Islands have responded by tabling a counter offer. The EU is so exasperated by the situation that Commission has informed the Coastal States that it refuses to attend further meetings until an offer has been received by either or both parties.
- Have the Coastal States been involved in a similar dispute in recent history?
Unfortunately yes, the most recent case involved a dispute over sharing arrangements for the blue whiting stock.
- What action is the EU undertaking to resolve the current situation?
The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have agreed legislation which allows for trade sanctions against those undertaking unsustainable fishing practices to a stock of common interest; in this case mackerel.
- What effect has the dispute had on certified fisheries?
All mackerel fisheries independently certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as sustainable and well managed are now suspended. This is due to the large increase in catch by Iceland and Faroe Islands against scientific advice.