Brussels refuses to commit as to precisely which species of fish it can include in an import ban against Iceland and the Faroe Islands, as suppliers and government agencies remain split over possible breaches in WTO rules.

The Commission has been seeking to ban Icelandic and Faroese fish for some time, as it increases pressure on the two nations over alleged overfishing of mackerel in the north-east Atlantic.

New regulations allowing the EC to impose trade sanctions on Iceland and the Faroes were given the go-ahead by the European Parliament at the end of last month.

Some fishing industry experts believe the regulations are wide enough to allow the EC to ban all Icelandic and Faroese fish imports - including lucrative species such as cod and haddock.

A spokesman for the EC said that any measures would be “targeted at the stock of common interest [ie mackerel] under the control of the country,” but he would not be drawn on whether “associated species” would extend to related species such as herring.

Suppliers claim that if the EC banned species other than mackerel, it would be contrary to WTO rules. “Our understanding of the WTO is that restriction in trade is normally in the sector in which the damage occurs,” said FDF director of sustainability, Andrew Kuyk.

A meeeting between Iceland, the Faroes, Norway and the EU will take place between Monday and Wednesday next week (22-24 October).