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Mackerel Quota

Volume 522: debated on Thursday 3 February 2011

I have had various discussions about north Atlantic mackerel, including discussions with Maria Damanaki, the EU Fisheries Commissioner, and discussions at Council of Ministers meetings in Brussels in December. Our discussions centred on hugely increased catches by Iceland and the Faroe Islands, and their failure to agree on stock management measures. In the light of that, the EU Commission agreed to table proposals for sanctions against both Iceland and the Faroe Islands if no agreement was possible in the near future.

The Minister will be aware of the Icelandic Government’s comment that the proposal to block Icelandic vessels from landing mackerel in European Union ports is neither surprising nor effective, given that most of their catches are landed at Icelandic ports. Is it not time that the matter was dealt with seriously, and should not Iceland’s accession to the EU be put on hold until the dispute is resolved? It is having a hugely disruptive influence on a core economic interest in Scotland.

I entirely agree. My consultations with Maria Damanaki and others across the Government have centred on the proposition that when a country is seeking to join a club, tearing up the rule book before it even enters is strange behaviour. We aim to ensure that Iceland’s accession is seen in the light of its actions in relation to the fish stock.

I agree that if we are to have quota rules, they must be obeyed. Has the Minister any other views on quotas— specifically in relation to fishermen in the under-10-metre sector—that he might wish to include in his discussions so that we do not experience another crisis in the summer?

We will be consulting the industry shortly about changes in the operation of our domestic fleet and about how we can help it to secure greater sustainability. The issue really comes down to the sustainability of stock. Approximately 1% of the egg survey is in Icelandic waters. There is an obvious way in which the Icelanders can negotiate. I urge them to operate in the way that we do across fisheries—to sit down and talk, rather than acting unilaterally.