00:00 Saturday 24 March 2012  Written by Jackie Keogh

Minister claims mackerel stocks decimated in North Atlantic

THE Minister for the Marine called for trade sanctions against Iceland and the Faroe Islands at a meeting of fisheries ministers in Brussels on Tuesday because he said they are 'plundering' mackerel stocks in the North Atlantic.

Having put the issue on the agenda of the EU Fisheries Council, Simon Coveney, TD, insisted that 'further, strong action against Iceland and the Faroe Islands' was needed because the mackerel crisis was having a detrimental effect on jobs, the economy, sustainability, and fair fishing practices.

The minister said Ireland was 'a strong supporter of Icelandic accession to the European Union.' However, he said Ireland would find 'it difficult to accept that we could move ahead in good faith...while this issue remains unresolved.'

The minister described the mackerel fishery as Ireland's most valuable resource, but he said it was at risk of collapsing due to the alleged overfishing of stocks by Icelandic and Faroese fishermen since 2008.

If allowed to continue unchecked, Mr Coveney said the situation had the potential to reduce the lucrative Irish fishery - of around 70,000 tonnes - by half. Until recently, the agreed distribution of quotas saw Iceland being given a quota of 0.3%, with the Faroe Islands getting a quota of 4.8%. But the minister accused both Iceland and the Faroe Islands of abandoning the existing quotas. Together, he claimed, they are now catching just under 50% of the entire mackerel stocks when they migrate into Icelandic waters in the summer months. Last year, the European Commission introduced a regulation that would allow for trade sanctions against Iceland and the Faroe Isles.

In the meantime, an offer to increase the Icelandic and Faroese quotas to 7% and 8% respectively, and to give them access to EU waters, was rejected by both countries.

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