EU blames Iceland for collapse of "mackerel war" talks

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 16, 2012 1:43 PM
EU blames Iceland for collapse of "mackerel war" talks

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The latest round of talks to try to resolve a dispute over mackerel fishing rights in the northeast Atlantic has ended in failure, with the EU's fisheries chief blaming Iceland and the Faroe Islands for their collapse.

Officials have so far held five rounds of talks to try to end the ongoing "mackerel war," which began in 2010 when Iceland increased its annual catch quota for the fish from around 2,000 tons to 130,000 tons.

Faroese mackerel catches have increased six-fold in the last two years to reach 150,000 tons in 2011.

The massive increase in quotas has brought both countries into conflict with fishermen from Scotland, Ireland and Norway, and threaten to derail Iceland's bid to join the 27-nation EU.

Last month, Iceland's economics minister said the dispute over fishing rights would probably be the biggest hurdle in the country's EU membership bid, which is losing support among Icelanders.

"It is particularly disappointing that neither Iceland nor the Faroe Islands really engaged in the negotiating process," EU fisheries chief Maria Damanaki said in a statement after the talks in Reykjavik.

"The Union and Norway call on Iceland and the Faroe Islands to reduce their current unsustainable fishing levels," she said. "We remain ready in the future to continue to seek a reasonable and fair quota sharing arrangement."

Iceland and the Faroe Islands have said the increase in their quotas is justified because warmer temperatures have caused migratory mackerel to swim further north than ever before into their waters.

For its part, the EU has threatened to stop Icelandic and Faroese fishermen from landing their catches at EU ports.

(Reporting by Charlie Dunmore)