A three party agreement on the management of the mackerel stock in the North East Atlantic involving the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands was agreed on the 12th of March in London following lengthy discussions over many months and indeed years. Iceland, despite being involved in all of the negotiations is not party to this agreement.
The key elements of the agreement are as follows:
- The Total Allowable catch has been set at 1.24m tonnes for 2014. In subsequent years, it shall be based on the levels advised by ICES.
- The agreement is for 5 years
- 12.6% of the TAC has been allocated to Faroes.
- A further 15.6% has been held as a Coastal State and Fishing Party reserve. This would cover a possible accession of Iceland to the agreement as well as the interests of Russia and Greenland.
I can’t support the final agreement because of the unacceptably high shares allocated to the Faroe Islands and the level set aside for a reserve. However, there are aspects to this agreement that I can welcome, such as that there is no access to EU waters for Iceland, access for Norway has been restricted, the relative shares of the EU & Norway have been respected with each paying proportionately to cover the new arrangements. In addition, the quota for the Irish fleet for 2014 has increased by over 60% to 105,000 tonnes.
I have always been supportive of a deal that would bring an end to the irresponsible and excessive fishing of the mackerel stock that we have seen over the past five years. This new five year agreement which, while far from ideal, does at least ensure that in line with the EU and Norway, the Faroese will be subject to fixed quotas set on the basis of ICES advice, which will protect against the previous dangerously high levels of fishing in which they participated.
However, I am disappointed with the fact that the final outcome gave the Faroe Islands a significantly increased 12.6% share of the stock. The 15.6% reserve is intended to cover Iceland, Greenland and Russia but as all these parties are operating outside a formal agreement, there can be no confidence that they will respect even this very generous allocation.
From an Irish perspective, I am disappointed with the high shares granted and set aside which appear to me to be a reward for irresponsible behaviour. I consistently argued at Council and throughout these negotiations that the levels being proposed for these parties were too high and it is on that basis that I cannot support the overall deal. However, the European Commission and the other EU Mackerel Member States, in particular the UK who are the largest mackerel quota holder in the EU, were willing to accept the granting of those levels of share to the Faroes and the share set aside in the reserve.
To conclude, I don’t like the shares which we have transferred. I was prepared to concede significant share to both Iceland and Faeroes in the interests of stability and sustainability but in my view there is no justification for the EU to have conceded as much as we now have. The share for Faroes is, unfortunately, now fixed. I will be working hard to ensure that in negotiations to come we will all have learnt lessons and that EU Member States work more effectively together to better protect the Union share of this vital resource.