Faroe Islands blast threat of EU sanctions in mackerel war
COPENHAGEN - (AFP) - The Faroe Islands, an autonomous Danish territory, on Wednesday harshly criticised calls by Ireland and other EU countries for sanctions against it and Iceland for over-fishing of mackerel.
"This is a disturbing and very short-sighted approach from our closest European partners," Kate Sanderson, who heads the Faroese Fisheries, Trade and Regional Policy Office at the Faroese prime minister's office, told AFP.
Backed by France, Portugal and Spain, Ireland asked the European Commission Monday for information on potential trade measures against their north Atlantic neighbours, the latest chapter in what has been dubbed a 'mackerel war.'
EU fishing states are angry at high quotas set unilaterally by the Faroe Islands and Iceland on the grounds that global warming is pushing more mackerel north into their waters.
The European Commission estimates mackerel fishing this year will be 36 percent higher than levels deemed sustainable for the stock.
The Faroe Islands, which although Denmark is an EU member is not part of the bloc, is set to meet the EU, Iceland and Norway in September to try to hammer out a new mackerel quota agreement and bring an end to the conflict.
But Sanderson cautioned Wednesday that the threat of sanctions "is certainly not helping to ensure the constructive and balanced atmosphere that is so crucial to keeping the negotiations going on an even keel."
She criticised the fact that the EU and Norway have agreed to take about 90 percent of the total 639,000 tonnes of mackerel the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), an intergovernmental body, has said can be caught this year, leaving only around five percent each for Iceland and the Faroes.
Her criticism echoed that voiced by Iceland's Fisheries and Agriculture Minister Steingrimur Sigfusson Tuesday, who described the call for sanctions as "propaganda."
In 2010, Iceland suddenly raised its mackerel quota from 2,000 to 130,000 tonnes, while the Faroes raised its quota threefold to 85,000 tonnes, hiking it further to 148,000 tonnes this year.
In reaction, Brussels said in January 2011 it would block fishing boats from Iceland from unloading mackerel in the EU until the dispute over quotas was resolved.