Iceland has cut its annual mackerel catch quota by 15% for 2013 in an effort to ensure the future sustainability of the stock.

The Icelandic ministry of industries and innovation announced yesterday (3 February) that its 2013 quota would be 123,182 tonnes, down from 145,227 tonnes last year. It is the second year in a row in which Iceland has reduced its quota, which stood at 154,825 tonnes in 2011.

The reduction was in line with recommendations from international scientific experts, said Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, minister of industries and innovation. “Our 2013 mackerel quota continues our efforts to help preserve the mackerel stock, which is out top priority.”

However, the EU – which jointly fishes the stock with Iceland, the Faroes and Norway under a coastal states agreement – has dismissed Iceland’s quota reduction, claiming it conceals the fact that Iceland’s quota remains “excessively” high, before and after the reduction.

“Iceland awards itself almost a quarter (23%) of the entire scientifically justified quota for the North Atlantic mackerel stock, from a zero level a few years ago,” said a spokesman for Maria Damanaki, EU commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries. Iceland’s mackerel fisheries were still unsustainable and ignored the health of the mackerel fish stock, he added.

Sigfússon, for his part, said Iceland was disappointed with last month’s announcement by the EU and Norway that this year they would take 90% of the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas’ recommended catch limit of 542,000 tonnes. It was a “far oversized portion of the catch” given the changed migratory pattern of the mackerel stock, which had seen more mackerel from the shared stock end up in Icelandic waters in recent years, he said.