The EU, the Faroe Islands and Norway take full responsibility of overfishing. The Minister's response to the tripartite agreement on the mackerel issue

The Embassy would like to draw attention to the following press release issued today by Mr Sigurdur Johannsson, the Icelandic Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture:

Yesterday, the European Union, Norway and the Faroe Islands reached an agreement on total allowable catch and sharing of quotas of the mackerel stock. Deliberately, these three Coastal States leave Iceland outside the agreement but after a meeting in Edinburgh last week, it was clear that full efforts were made to reach an agreement based on the advice of International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), as the Icelandic negotiation delegation had repeatedly emphasised. The agreement, in which the three parties allocate themselves a total of 1,047,000 tonne catch this year, is valid for five years. This allocation exceeds the advice of the ICES by almost 18%. The EU and Norway have allocated solely for themselves 890,000 tonnes, which is the maximum advised total allowable catch for this year.

Minister Johannsson states: “We participated in the negotiations in order to ensure Iceland's fair and rightful share, based on scientific advise and sustainable utilisation of the mackerel stock. The Faroese clearly sought the same increased quota from the last agreement. Yesterday's agreement concludes that the shares of the EU and Norway increase from their previous level, to 100% of the advised quota, i.e. 890,000 tonnes, on to which they add the share of the Faroe Islands.”

Iceland and the EU reached an agreement on Iceland's share in autumn 2013 share on the basis of sustainable utilization of the mackerel stock. The agreement entailed that Iceland's share would never be less than 11,9% of the total allowable and scientifically advised catch, and for the next two years, the catch would not be under 123,000 tonnes, which is approximately equivalent to 13,8% of the advice this year.

Minister Johannsson added: “We were ready to stretch ourselves this far in order to reach an agreement on the sustainable use of the stock as the opportunity to do so was unique in light of the advice on greatly increased total allowable catch. The EU ensured us that it would guarantee the necessary means to reach an agreement, including the support of Norway. In the later phase of the negotiations, however, it was clear that the EU moved closer to the demands of Norway, which were based on severe increase of fishing exceeding advice. Thus, the EU has gone back on its words and instead of upholding the agreemeent reached with Iceland, based on sustainable fishing, the union has signed an agreement with Norway and the Faroe Islands, which supports fishing greatly exceeding advice. The agreement does not include the fishing of Iceland, Greenland and Russia and it is obvious that the total catch could exceed 50% above the advice.”

“During the last meetings, Iceland has done its best to contribute to reaching an agreement. I believe it is clear that Norway did neither, at any point, intend to negotiate a fair and agreeable share for Iceland, nor negotiate fishing on the basis of scientific advice. At the last meeting of the four Coastal States, under false pretext, Norway discussed the fishing of Greenland and the possibilities on how to block Greenland's opportunity to build up their fisheries considering the increased number of mackerel in her own waters. This has seemingly triggered the EU to abandon its agreement with Iceland. Norway could thus obstruct an agreement on that basis and was able to satisfy her demand on catch exceeding over half of the advice.”

Iceland and the Faroe Islands have had to endure threats of sanctions by the EU, should they not cease the alleged overfishing of mackerel in the EU's opinion. Minister Johannsson says it is very clear that those threats and proposed sanctions are unlawful and that the agreement signed by the EU will ultimately result in overfishing. To continue threats to impose sanctions based on overfishing would be ambivalent.  “We have always emphasised to reach an agreement which follows scientific advice”, Minister Johannsson added.

He concluded: “The methods used to reach this agreement are unacceptable. We believe that by going behind Iceland's back in reaching this agreement, the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands have forfeited trust and greatly impaired future cooperation and negotiations of the Coastal States.”

No decision has been made on the total allowable catch of Icelandic vessels but it is expected within the coming weeks.

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