Mackerel on ice

The EU has struck a deal with the Faroes on mackerel fishing

The European Union and Norway have brokered a breakthrough deal with the Faroe Islands in their long-running dispute over mackerel fishing .

The five-year agreement – which was secured during talks in London late on Wednesday (12 March) – puts in place fixed quota arrangements for mackerel fishing in the north-east Atlantic.

It comes after a lengthy dispute between the EU, the Faroes and Iceland over fishing rights for the Atlantic mackerel stock, which led to theEU imposing trade sanctions on the Faroes last autumn .

The EU has not yet been able to reach a deal with Iceland, but its new agreement with the Faroes leaves the door open to Iceland coming on board at a later stage.

“There were no winners in this deal, with sacrifices and concessions being made by all sides”

Ian Gatt

EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki said the deal marked a significant move forward for sustainable fishing. “The talks were long and intensive and given the potential risk to the stock, the stakes could not have been much higher. This agreement ensures the long-term sustainability of this valuable stock. The door is still open for Iceland to join the other parties in the near future.”

Defra fisheries minister George Eustice said mackerel was the UK’s most valuable fish stock “and this deal is a significant step forward to help manage our stocks effectively”.

Fishermen also welcomed the deal but stressed it involved considerable compromise for all involved.

The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association said the UK and Scotland would end up with a smaller share of north-east Atlantic mackerel as a result of the deal. “There were no winners in this deal, with sacrifices and concessions being made by all sides,” its CEO, Ian Gatt, said.

But he added: “Whilst we believe the shares awarded to the Faroe Islands are too high, there are positive aspects to the deal. The big prize is certainly capturing an international fisheries agreement for the north-east Atlantic’s most important stock.”

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said he hoped the new deal could pave the way for Scottish whitefish boats gaining access to Faroese waters, “which has been denied to them for the past four years because of the mackerel dispute”.