Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

European Union; Faroe Islands; Iceland; Norway: Dispute over Mackerel Fishing Not Resolved by Talks

(Nov. 7, 2012)

On October 22-24, 2012, representatives of Iceland, Norway, the Faroe Islands, and the European Union met in London to discuss the sustainable management of mackerel fishing off their shores, but failed to reach an agreement. (Coastal States’ Talks Fail to Reach a Mackerel Quota Agreement, FIS WORLD NEWS (Oct. 29, 2012).)

Richard Lockhear, the Scottish Fisheries Secretary, expressed his disappointment that a solution was not found, stating:

We need an international deal that will see the mackerel stock sustainably fished – something that has regrettably not been the case over the past four years, with the Faroes and Iceland pursuing their own irresponsible quotas. It’s disappointing that these talks have failed to achieve a deal, which is clearly in the interests of all parties who share the fishery. (Id.)

Struan Stevenson, a Scottish Member of the European Parliament, also criticized the Faroe Islands and Iceland, stating that it was “[t]ime for tough sanctions” against them and adding that “[t]hese two bandit nations will wipe out the shared mackerel stock due to their greed.” (Id.) Stevenson is theSenior Vice President of the European Parliament Fisheries Committee. He stated that the EU could no longer tolerate the “unsustainable ravaging of a shared fish stock in this way.” (Time for Sanctions Against Iceland and the Faroes, Says Struan Stevenson MEP, Scottish Conservatives European Parliament website (Oct. 25, 2012).)

Steps toward sanctions were taken in September 2012 via a vote in the European Parliament to approve a framework for such sanctionsagainst nations considered to have unsustainable fishing practices. The sanctions available for use range from restrictions on importation of fish products of certain species to prohibitions on chartering agreements with businesses from countries that allow non-sustainable fishing. (European Parliament Approves Framework for Sanctions Against Countries Allowing Unsustainable Fishing, Maria Damanaki European Commission Member website (Sept. 13, 2012).)

Iceland’s chief negotiator, Sigurgeir Þorgeirsson, also issued a statement on the need for coastal states to resolve the mackerel issue. Because consensus was not reached at the London meeting on sharing the catch, Iceland proposed that the total amount of fish harvested by the coastal states and the Russian Federation for the year 2013 be reduced by 15% compared with the amount caught in 2012. That would make the total mackerel catch for this year 542,000 tons. Although this goal was proposed by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), the London meeting participants did not reach agreement on the plan. (Press Release, Iceland Statements Concerning Coastal States Negotiations on Sustainable Fishing of Mackerel, ICENEWS (Oct. 24, 2012).)

According to its website, ICES “is a network of more than 1600 scientists from 200 institutes linked by an intergovernmental agreement,” whose mission is to “advance the scientific capacity to give advice on human activities affecting, and affected by, marine ecosystems.” (What Is ICES?, ICES website (last visited Oct. 29, 2012).)

The Minister of Industries and Innovation of Iceland, Steingrímur J Sigfússon, also issued a statement, expressing regret that agreement had not been reached in London. He said that Iceland would “remain willing to negotiate a solution that reduces the mackerel catch for all Coastal States, based on scientific evidence, and ensures a fair share for all while protecting the stock for future generations.” (Iceland Statements Concerning Coastal States Negotiations on Sustainable Fishing of Mackerel, supra.)