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Iceland PM hits back in mackerel fishing row

Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson says that any EU sanctions would violate international trade law.

THE ICELANDIC PRIME Minister is resisting pressure to cut back on his country’s mackerel fishing after the EU Commission decided on sanctions against it along with the Faroe Islands.

Speaking in Brussels following a meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Bloomberg reports that Icelandic PM Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson said any such sanctions would violate international trade law.

The Prime Minister continued by saying that Iceland has been open to pursuing a negotiated settlement and remains so.

Under pressure from Ireland who were supported  number of other countries,  EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki last night announced that that she will introduce trade sanctions against Iceland and the Faroe Islands due to their overfishing of mackerel in the North East Atlantic.

Irish EU fisheries representatives have pointed towards the fact that Iceland’s share of mackerel in the North East Atlantic was 1 per cent in 2006 but now stands at almost 23 per cent while the Faroe Islands have increased its share from 4.6 per cent in 2009 to a current level of 29.3 per cent.

Fianna Fáil MEP and member of the commission’s fisheries committee Pat the Cope Gallagher MEP today gave a cautious welcome to the announcement of sanctions:

The detail is all important as the Commissioner must implement broad and wide ranging sanctions for them to be meaningful and these measures must be introduced with immediate effect.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Agriculture and fisheries Minister Simon Coveney accused Iceland and the Faroe Islands of  “unilateraly setting their own quotas”.

The issue comes in the wake of Iceland suspending negotiations on EU accession last month. Newly elected Gunnlaugsson says that no date has been set for a referendum on EU membership but Commission President Barroso pressed the need for urgency:

It is in the interest of the European Union and Iceland that a decision is taken on the basis of proper reflection and in an objective, transparent, serene manner. But the clock is ticking, and it is also in the shared interest of us all that this decision is taken without further delay.

Read: Coveney makes “major step” for Irish fishermen >

Read: EU agriculture ministers to hold first vote on fishing discards >

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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