Faroese question EU, Norway’s credibility in mackerel row

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The EU and Norway’s 110% grab for themselves of the total recommended North East Atlantic mackerel quota raises questions of their commitment to multilateral cooperation, the Faroese Pelagic Organisation says.

The move by the EU and Norway to first take more than everything for themselves and then blame others for irresponsibility is hardly a testimony to their commitment to responsible management.

The Faroese claim they had the right to raise their share of the North East Atlantic mackerel quota from 35,000 to 85,000 tonnes, or from five to fifteen percent of 570,000 tonnes, for the 2010 season. Referring to evidence of a considerable shift toward the northwest in the mackerel population, the Faroese Pelagic Organisation (FPO) questions the credibility of the EU and Norway in the mackerel issue, as the two parties claimed for themselves more than all of the recommended total quota with no consideration of the other countries involved in the fishery.

Consultations between the mackerel Coastal States for this year fell short of reaching a multilateral agreement as the EU and Norway went ahead with an agreement that left nothing to the Faroese or the Icelanders, nor for an allocation in international waters through the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), where Russia gets its share.

That agreement made between the EU and Norway raises questions of credibility as it allots the two parties as much as 110 percent of the total allowable catch (TAC) of 570,000 tonnes recommended by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

The outspoken criticism against the Faroe Islands for setting its own mackerel quota in line with its bid for a raised share in the Coastal States framework surprises the Faroese.

“The move by the EU and Norway to first take more than everything for themselves and then blame others for irresponsibility is hardly a testimony to their commitment to responsible management,” said managing director Jógvan Jespersen of the FPO.

Collective responsibility

Mr. Jespersen noted that left out of the agreement, the Faroese could only set their own quota. As they did this in line with their demands at the negotiating table, the Norwegians and the EU reacted with sharp condemnation and anger, meeting with disbelief in the Faroe Islands.

“We are very disappointed over the decision by the pelagic industry in the EU and Norway to block Faroese vessels from landing mackerel and thereby to terminate their decade-long cooperation with our fleet,” Mr. Jespersen said.

He underlined that all Coastal States parties have a shared responsibility to sort out the differences that sank this year’s mackerel agreement.

“Indeed the blame pointed at the Faroese is based on the perceived possibility that the future health of the mackerel stock could be in jeopardy given the absence of a comprehensive agreement among the Coastal States. Be that as it may, the EU and Norway certainly must take their share of the responsibility for any failure to restore the multilateral agreement. The Faroese made every effort to reach a negotiated solution and were willing to compromise if necessary.

“When two parties have differences over an issue, you cannot reach agreement by having the solution dictated by one side. All the countries engaged in this mackerel fishery, not just the Faroes, have a responsibility to make sure the stock is fished responsibly and sustainably.”

Abundance

There were two major disagreements at the Coastal States mackerel negotiations for 2010 in Clonakilty last October and in Edinburgh last November, according to Mr. Jespersen.

“First, it turned out that the mackerel had left Norwegian waters earlier than expected, and so the Norwegians were upset at the EU’s refusal to give Norwegian vessels access into EU waters for catching the remaining 70,000 tonnes of their quota. Second, the Faroe Islands demanded a change to the sharing of the quota to reflect the changed geographical distribution of the mackerel stock.”

The arguments presented by the Faroese are based on a new consensus between scientists and fishermen that the juvenile and adult mackerel population has moved increasingly toward the northwest, which means the mackerel is found in Faroese waters to a larger degree than ever and over a longer period of the year.

Some would argue that the officially recognized scientific data regarding the size of the mackerel stock are based on inadequate methodologies and extremely conservative recommendations on catch, with egg surveys only recently taking place in the now densely populated waters around Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

“What’s obvious to everyone here is that the mackerel is booming and the waters are brimming with it.”

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Jogvan Jespersen
Faroese Pelagic Organisation (FPO)
+298 239 910
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Bui Tyril
OpenEye.biz
+44 (0)845 053 1842
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