The Mackerel Wars


Date: August 30, 2010



If you keep an eye on EU issues – you may have noticed that everyone from the Guardian, to Libération, to members of Parliament and the EU Fisheries Commissioner herself, is talking about the new war that’s reached European waters: The Mackerel War.

Iceland and the Faroe Islands unilaterally raised their combined mackerel quota from 27,000 to 215,000 tons – and Norway and the EU are not happy about it, arguing that such an enormous jump makes a mockery out of sustainable fisheries.

Last week Norway’s answer has been to prohibit landings of mackerel by Faroese or Icelandic vessels in its ports and the Norwegian minister is now calling upon the European Commission and Member States to do the same. In addition, the European Association of Fish Producers has demanded that the Commission suspend the current bilateral fisheries agreement between the EU and the Faroe Islands, develop and execute immediate EU trade sanctions against Faroe Islands and Iceland, and place their mackerel fishing vessels on the IUU black list.

The disagreement over mackerel quota allocation is not a recent issue. As the North East Atlantic seas are shared between the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway and the EU and mackerel being a species that straddles the waters of these States, the fishery is managed internationally within the framework of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission. Once the TAC has been agreed on, each coastal State receives a quota.

Until recently, Iceland was excluded from such quota negotiations. Indeed, it is only since December 2009, and after several unanswered requests, that Iceland was finally invited by the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands, to participate in the negotiations on mackerel fishery.

Who knows what will happen next, but we’ll be keeping an eye on the heated situation.