NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Mackerel talks fail to end wrangle

Mackerel catch
Image caption The aim of the talks was to try to come to an agreement over mackerel quotas

Scottish fishermen have expressed their disappointment at the failure of talks to resolve a quota row over mackerel.

Officials from the EU, Norway, Iceland and the Faroes have been trying to agree a deal on catch limits for 2011.

Iceland and the Faroes earlier sparked outrage by unilaterally setting mackerel quotas in their own waters.

A third round of talks to settle the dispute and secure a joint management plan for mackerel stock began in Oslo on Thursday.

Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said beforehand a four-way agreement was the government's priority, however a three-party agreement looks more likely after Iceland walked away from the talks.

Further discussion between the EU, Norway and the Faroes will take place in Copenhagen on 9 and 10 December.

Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen's Association, said: "We are bitterly disappointed that Iceland does not see the need to find a deal this year and have walked away from the talks.

"This effectively means that Iceland will set its own quota for 2011 and not be part of a joint management plan for the stock with the other main stakeholders in the fishery.

"We believe that joint management involving all coastal states is essential to ensure that this valuable resource is fished sustainably.

"It is a great pity that Iceland does not seem to recognise the importance of integrated and sensible management.

"It is encouraging, however, that the Faroese are still talking as they have been part of a long standing international agreement for many years and hopefully their willingness to continue to negotiate will result in a three-party deal with the EU and Norway in the coming weeks."

Unrealistic demands

Mr Lochhead said: "This morning Iceland walked away from the talks, signalling that they are not interested in reasonable negotiation to achieve an agreement that would safeguard the future of the mackerel fishery.

"We have had 10 years of careful, sustainable management of the mackerel stock and we want this to continue for another 10 years, and beyond.

"That's why it is so disappointing that Iceland have stuck with unrealistic demands that put all this hard work at risk and threatens the future viability of mackerel fishing in the North Atlantic.

"Talks with the Faroe Islands will continue and we remain hopeful that a new three party agreement can be reached for 2011 - which would be better than the current situation of both Faroes and Iceland setting excessive unilateral quotas."

Iceland later denied that it had walked away from the talks.

The country's key negotiator on mackerel fisheries, Tomas Heidar, told BBC Scotland's news website: "It was simply a joint conclusion that an agreement on the comprehensive management of mackerel fisheries next year could not be reached.

"Iceland has showed increased flexibility at this last coastal states meeting but that was in vain primarily because of Norway's unflexible position that a share for Iceland beyond 3.1% was unacceptable."

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