The government of Iceland is urging EU member states to return to the negotiating table to reach a settlement over the current mackerel dispute raging between the nations.

It comes after the EU states discussed possible sanctions against Iceland and the Faroe Islands for alleged overfishing of mackerel at yesterday’s EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting in Brussels.

The UK pushed for trade sanctions against Iceland and the Faroes at the meeting but the Commission said it wished to discuss the mackerel situation with the recently elected Icelandic government before proposing sanctions.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Steingrímur J Sigfússon, minister of industries and innovation in the Icelandic government, signalled that a diplomatic solution could still be reached. “Applying economic sanctions will not contribute to a long-term solution but on the contrary make the mackerel issue more difficult to resolve.”

The EU and Norway had claimed 90% of the recommended 2013 mackerel catch, leaving only 10% for Iceland, the Faroes and Russia, he added. “We worry that this decision was made unilaterally despite research showing that up to 30% of the mackerel stock was in Iceland’s Exclusive Economic Zone.” 

In September last year, the EU approved a legal instrument giving the Commission the power to introduce trade sanctions.

At yesterday’s meeting, the Commission said it was “ready to initiate trade measures” against the Faroes for its alleged overfishing of the Antlanto-Scandian herring stock.  

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