EU action on mackerel welcomed by MEP Higgins

MEP for Ireland North West and member of the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee, Jim Higgins, has welcomed proposed EU measures announced this week to limit the over-fishing of North Atlantic mackerel stocks.

Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki announced today that she will decide by the end of the month the nature of sanctions against Iceland and the Faroe Islands in a row over mackerel quotas, which could see the island’s fishermen banned from landing catches at EU ports. “This will force a realistic negotiation on the matter with Iceland and the Faroe Islands,” said Higgins. “Trade sanctions must go beyond landing of mackerel however.”

Iceland’s prime minister, Sigmundur Davíd Gunnlaugsson, will meet with the European Commission president José Manuel Barroso on the matter in Brussels today. Iceland says its increased quotas are justified as warming seas have led to more fish migrating northwards to its waters.

In 2006, Iceland and Faroe Islands jointly accounted for just five per cent of the total mackerel catch from the North East Atlantic. In comparison to this year where both countires propose to take more than 50 per

cent, which is against recent scientific recommendations. If the two countries are allowed to continue their plans without any proper sustainable management put in place, mackerel stocks could be heavily depleted this year with more than 200,000 tonnes of mackerel expected to be caught.

This week, MEP Higgins echoed Mr Coveney's calls for agreed quotas, and fears the stock is at risk of collapse because over-fishing the North Atlantic mackerel stock.

Currently, Iceland is fishing 20 per cent of the mackerel quota in the North Atlantic, which is over and above what is viable and sustainable for mackerel stocks. Minister Coveney explained recently that trade sanctions would limit the export of fish product from the Faroe Islands and from Iceland into the EU in reaction to their “reckless management and fishing of mackerel”.

MEP Higgins concluded with praise for the Fine Gael TD Coveney, by saying, “I pay tribute to Minister for the Marine, Simon Coveney, and the stance he is taking to protect the Irish fishing fleet. I am happy that the commissioner is to take action in the next two weeks. We cannot wait six months, or a year before taking measures against Iceland and the Faroes, but I do hope that the trade sanctions will apply to more species than just mackerel, otherwise it will not be effective at all.”

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