In a high-level meeting in Strasbourg today, senior members of the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee, representing all of the main political groups, called on Štefan Füle, the EU Commissioner for Enlargement & Neighbourhood Policy, to block Iceland's accession to the EU until they agree to a fair settlement of the dispute over mackerel.
Speaking following the meeting with Commisioner Füle, Struan Stevenson MEP, Senior Vice President of the Fisheries Committee said: "We informed Commissioner Füle that there have been eleven separate rounds of negotiation with Iceland over their arbitrary decision to catch 150,000 tonnes of mackerel every year, but they have refused to come to any agreement. Their appalling behaviour is now being mirrored by the Faroes, who have also decided to catch 150,000 tonnes of mackerel this year.
"The ICES scientists who advise the EU on maximum levels of fishing have stated that the safe ceiling for mackerel catches between the EU and Norway should not exceed 580,000 tonnes this year. Together, Iceland and the Faroes will add a further 300,000 tonnes to that total, endangering the entire stock, which could now be in imminent danger of collapse.”
Struan Stevenson continued: "We have repeatedly asked Iceland and the Faroes to accept a fair share of the overall 580,000 tonne quota, but instead, they are ignoring all scientific advice and performing a greedy smash and grab raid on this stock of north east Atlantic mackerel. This is dangerously unsustainable behaviour and puts at risk many thousands of jobs in the EU and Norwegian pelagic fisheries sector if the stock collapses through over-fishing. We asked Commisioner Füle to ensure that no further progress is made on Iceland's negotiations to join the EU until a resolution to this issue can be found.
"These two nations, who boast about their sustainable fishing policies, will virtually exterminate the mackerel stock. Both countries have previous records when it comes to over exploiting fish, having decimated blue whiting stocks after engaging in Olympic fishing and refusing to comply with international agreements.
"We are also currently examining proposals for sanctions against Iceland and the Faroes on all fish products exported into Europe, as well as banning their vessels from EU ports and harbours. I hope that this combination of robust measures will bring them to their senses.”
He concluded: "Commissioner Füle said the show of unity across the political spectrum displayed by our delegation reflected the seriousness of the situation. He assured us that the matter is being dealt with at the highest level in the Commission, saying: "Yes, I understand the issue and yes I want a solution to be found."
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