EU to Threaten Sanctions Against Iceland and Greenland Over Mackerel Dispute Skip to content

EU to Threaten Sanctions Against Iceland and Greenland Over Mackerel Dispute

The Chair of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee Chris Davies has stated that the EU might take action against Iceland and Greenland if the countries won’t back down from increasing their mackerel catch unilaterally. According to Davies, the committee will convene early next month to discuss sanctions and Icelandic officials will be invited to the meeting. Icelandic fisheries officials claim the threats are a surprising waste of energy that could be spent negotiating and that excluding Russia from the sanctions is cowardly.

Read more about: Contentious Mackerel Quota Negotiations

Iceland intends to increase its share of mackerel from 108,000 tonnes to 140,000 tonnes, while Greenland intends to increase its quota by 18 %, to just over 70,000 tonnes. Davies has called these plans “despicable”. Davies told I News, “ “I think it’s despicable. This isn’t the way partnerships work. The whole point is that stocks are shared fairly.”

He went on to say: “I will meet the European Commission on 4 September to discuss taking action. We don’t want a repeat of the cod wars. We want to understand how to work together. But we will press ahead with sanctions to protect our interests if need be. It’s on the agenda.”

Unfair that Iceland should shoulder all the responsibility  

The Ministry of Fisheries replied to RÚV earlier this month that Iceland was being kept from the mackerel quota negotiations as the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands were making all the decisions on the future of the mackerel stock. Repeated attempts to reconcile and Iceland’s willingness to negotiate hadn’t been successful. Furthermore, the ministry stated that Iceland’s mackerel fishing was both justified and responsible. “Fishing more than is advised by scientists is a serious matter but the responsibility can’t be shouldered entirely by Iceland. It’s an unfair demand that one state unilaterally decreases fishing.”

Excluding Russia from sanctions shows lack of courage

Kristján Freyr Helgason, chairman of the Icelandic delegation to the Fisheries Committee, pointed out in an interview with RÚV that it’s surprising that Russia is to be exempt from these intended sanctions. In addition, it’s strange to accuse Iceland of irresponsible fishing when the EU and the two states caught twice the advised amount of mackerel.

Kristján claims that the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands have kept Iceland from negotiations on mackerel quotas for five years and only allotted a small share of the quota to the countries outside their agreement.

“They’ve taken a very hard stance. They renewed the agreement last year without changes and without accepting new parties to the negotiations. They keep leaving 15.6%, which, according to their decision, amounts to 102,000 tonnes this year. That’s nowhere near enough for the three parties that are left, the coastal states of Iceland and Greenland and the fishing nation of Russia. It’s furthermore surprising that they only intend to introduce sanctions against Iceland and Greenland, as Russia announced July 18 that they would increase their quota by 16500 tonnes. It doesn’t show a lot of courage to threaten Iceland and Greenland but leave Russia out of it.” Kristján stated.

Threats are a waste of energy

Accusing Iceland of irresponsible fishing is a long shot, according to Kristján Þór Júlíusson, Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture. Threatening Iceland with sanctions over mackerel fishing is an anachronism and that energy would be put to better use by negotiating. Iceland won’t be left out while other nations fish from the mackerel stock they share.

In response to Davies’ threat, Kristján stated, “I’ve invited the good MP to visit Iceland and go over our arguments and get to know our side of the issue. I haven’t received any response to my invitation, but I assume it will be accepted, as in my mind, it’s an anachronism to spend time arguing and making threats when you can focus that energy into negotiations.”

He went on to say, “It’s interesting that an EU spokesperson makes these accusations, as, unlike Iceland,  they aren’t exactly known for responsible fisheries management.”

One man’s opinion

The threat of sanctions is surprising to the director of Fisheries Iceland Jens Garðar Helgason as Iceland hasn’t been invited to negotiate the quotas along with the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands. “I’m certain this would affect Icelandic fisheries noticeably. Even if [Davies] is making these suggestions, it still has to go through the whole process of the EU. So, at a glance, it looks to me like one man’s opinion and he’s going to try to make this happen. But I’m certain that the party nations and the EU will agree on how to split the quota and this might nudge people to get down to the negotiating table. I hope it will.” Says Jens.



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