Danish minister: Mackerel war sanctions against Iceland, Faroes ‘unlikely’

January 25, 2013, 2:01 pm

The European fisheries and maritime affairs commission "is quite unlikely" to approve potential sanctions against Faroes and Iceland in the ongoing mackerel war, the Danish fisheries minister Mette Gjerskov announced today in parliament.

The fact that Norway and the EU have decided to allocate themselves 90% of the total recommended mackerel catch for 2013 means there will probably be little legal ground for sanctions to be approved, Gjerskov said.

Gjerskov made the comments during a briefing at the Danish parliament on Friday morning.

“Concerning  mackerel, the EU and Norway – as in 2012 – agreed to share 90% of the [recommended total allowable catch]", Gjerskov said, according to a statement from the Danish ministry sent to Undercurrent News.

"The European commission has pointed out that based on a 90% share, it would legally be quite unlikely that trade sanctions could be initiated against Iceland and the Faroe Islands.”

In response, the European commission did not clarify whether this was the case. "This issue is on the agenda of Jan. 28 EU fisheries ministers council in Brussels," a spokesperson responded to Undercurrent.

Sjurdur Skaale, one of the two Faroese representatives to the Danish parliament, related Gjerskov's comments to Undercurrent.

According to him, the commission's decision could have been very different had the EU and Norway taken only slightly less, such as 85%. "I asked what the commission would have done if they had taken less – for example 80%. The answer was, that 85% would have been considered sustainable. This means that the door would have been open for sanctions if Norway and the EU had settled for 85%," Skaale said.

"The commission has never made any kind of statement that the EU fleet is fishing unsustainably," the European spokesperson said in response. "It is true however, that the commission has repeatedly urged other countries to stop fishing unsustainably."

Skaale added that according to Gjerskov, Denmark had opposed Norway's and the EU's decision to allocate themselves 90% of the quota, arguing instead that they should settle for 84-86%.

A decision to oppose a ban is likely to be a huge disappointment especially for Scotland, which has criticized the EU for being too slow at implementing sanctions. 

The EU parliament first approved a bill last year that allows the EU to pass sanctions against countries overfishing in jointly managed stocks. If passed, the sanctions would have allowed the EU to block imports of mackerel but also whitefish from the Faroes and Iceland, including, potentially, blocking the transit of such goods through the EU.

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