The EU’s mackerel war with Iceland and the Faroes is set to escalate next year with the introduction of a trade ban on Icelandic and Faroese fish imports, The Grocer can reveal.

Until now, the EC has been unable to impose sanctions on Iceland or the Faroes because it lacked the legal authority, but in an exclusive interview with The Grocer, EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki said she would implement a ban once she had pushed an enabling regulation through the EU.

The move comes after years of talks with the Icelandic and Faroese governments have failed to curtail overfishing of the lucrative North East Atlantic mackerel stock.

“Iceland and the Faroes have put unilateral quotas in place and they are not co-operative at all. There is no scientific foundation on which they can base their decisions,” Damanaki said.

If an agreement with Iceland and the Faroes could not be reached soon, the Commission would have no choice but to act, she added. “We’ll absolutely need this for next year. We cannot afford the next season to go as it has gone in the past three years.”

The proposed regulation has been considered by the Parliament’s fisheries committee and will go to a parliamentary plenary session in June. It states it would “provide the EU with the means to take effective measures against states not co-operating in good faith in the adoption of agreed management measures”.

Pressure has been mounting on the EC to address the overfishing of North East Atlantic mackerel stock. Iceland increased its catch in the zone from almost zero in 2006 to 156,802 tonnes in 2011. The Faroes increased its catch sixfold over two years to 150,000 tonnes in 2011.