STOCKHOLM Feb 3 Iceland has lowered its
mackerel quota in a move that could ease the risk of the
European Union barring Icelandic fishermen from its ports in a
row over mackerel fishing.
Iceland's industry ministry said the north Atlantic island
would fish 15 percent less mackerel this year than in 2012,
taking the catch to 123,182 tons, to help assure sustainability
of the stock.
"We are willing to further reduce our catch if other coastal
states agree to do so as well," Industry Minster Steingrimur
Sigfusson said in a statement posted on the ministry's website
on Saturday. "I hope the coastal states will return to the
negotiating table with us to discuss concrete proposals."
Iceland in 2011 sharply boosted its annual mackerel quota to
146,000 tonnes, compared with just 2,000 tonnes two years
earlier. It has said the increased quotas were justified by an
explosion in mackerel stocks in its waters, after the fish began
migrating further northwards as a result of warming seas.
In a dispute that has drawn comparisons to the "cod wars" of
the 1950s and 1970s, the EU in September passed a law that
allows it to limit or ban imports of fish from countries
"engaged in unsustainable practices in the management of fish
resources they share with the EU".
The EU, Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands - the coastal
states - jointly manage the northeast Atlantic mackerel fishery.
The row has risked undermining Iceland's application to join
the EU, made after its bank system and economy collapsed in
2008. In January Iceland all but shelved the accession talks
amid widespread EU scepticism among the 320,000 Icelanders,
ahead of a parliamentary vote in April.
The ministry said Iceland's share of the mackerel catch by
the coastal states and Russia was about 16 percent in 2012.
(Reporting via Stockholm newsroom)