3182nd meeting of the council of the european union (Agriculture and Fisheries) – 16th July 2012

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3182nd meeting of the COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

(Agriculture and Fisheries) – 16th July 2012

AOB Item “North East Atlantic Mackerel Management and Trade Sanctions
Information Note from the Irish Delegation


  • The North East Atlantic mackerel fishery, if fished within recommended levels, is worth approximately €1 billion, with the value to the European Union as the largest shareholder estimated to be over €600m.

  • The North East Atlantic stock of mackerel has been built up by the prudent management and husbandry of the traditional main Coastal States participants of the EU and Norway, with support from the Faroe Islands up to 2009. This was a significant contributor to the rapid expansion of the mackerel biomass and to the distribution area of the stock, which was atypically found in Icelandic waters in the period 2008 to 2011.

  • Iceland who had no traditional dependency on this stock, took a very opportunistic approach to this, and since 2008 have engaged in an unsustainable and irresponsible fishery on mackerel culminating in landings of around 150,000t in 2011. This represents 23% of the recommended TAC.

  • The Faroese were a member of the traditional three party Coastal States management framework since 1999, but refused to take part in 2010 and have unilaterally increased their outtake six fold indicating their intention to target almost 150,000t again in 2012.

  • Over 3 years of negotiations involving 13 meetings, Iceland and the Faroe Islands refused to enter into joint management and sharing arrangements with the EU and Norway. The most recent offer of 7.5% and 8% share made jointly by the EU and Norway to Iceland and the Faroe Island was not accepted in February this year.

  • In response to the unsustainable and opportunistic activities of Iceland and the Faroes, the Commission made proposals for the introduction of legislation imposing trade restrictions in cases where fishing nations engage in irresponsible, unsustainable and illegal fishing practices on stocks of common interest with the EU. This proposal has now been agreed by both Council and Parliament.

  • International scientific surveys carried out earlier this year (International Ecosystem Survey in the Nordic Seas survey April – June 2012), and submitted to ICES, indicate a very significantly reduced abundance of mackerel in the Icelandic zone in 2012 compared to 2011 (see maps in Appendix I). This information needs to be coupled with the scientific evidence of cooling in the Norwegian sea, low and falling levels of plankton concentrations west of 2 degrees west, declining mackerel stock size, together with reduced mackerel catches of the Icelandic fleet in 2012.

  • All of this suggests a contraction of the mackerel distribution area out of Icelandic waters to its normal range

  • The temporary expansion in the period 2008 - 2011of the distribution of the mackerel stock justified some review of the shares available for Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The levels of mackerel share being demanded by both parties are, certainly in 2012, completely unjustifiable and cannot be supported by any quantifiable, biological or zonal arguments.


  • acknowledges the continuing efforts being made to bring about an acceptable and balanced resolution, and notes the Commissioners intention to meet with the Norwegian and Icelandic Ministers on 3rd September in London with a view to resolving the issue at political level.

  • welcomes the agreement between Council and Parliament in relation to the Commission’s proposal for a regulation providing for sanctions on third countries allowing non sustainable fishing on shared stocks;

  • urges the Commission to be in a position to fully implement this Regulation immediately on its adoption by the legislators, where irresponsible fishing practices on the mackerel stock are not ended.

  • stresses the need for Norway to mirror the restrictions being placed by the EU on both parties so as to bring accumulated economic as well as political pressure to bear on Iceland and the Faroe Islands to modify their demands to levels which are fair and justifiable.

  • believes that the conditions have changed substantially and that the temporary expansion of the stock into Icelandic waters has now reversed.

  • contends that Iceland should not be rewarded for their opportunistic and unsustainable fishing activity and considers that the offer made in Reykjavik in February of 7.5% to Iceland was overly generous. This is particularly so in light of the scientific evidence showing a reversal of recent distributional trends to the more historical and traditional position. That offer was not accepted and is no longer valid.

  • notes that the vast majority of the SSB (mature fish only) is distributed in EU waters for the duration of the spawning period and that the vast majority of immature juveniles are also distributed in EU waters, on the shelf area and inshore from west of Scotland to the Iberian coast, and particularly in the waters around Ireland (see map in Appendix II)

  • would be very concerned that if there were any consideration of any further offer involving even modest increases on the previous offer to either party in conjunction with a likely demand from Russia for higher shares, it could result in a scenario where the EU has less than 50% of the overall stock. In this situation, Ireland’s share would be at a level or indeed less than either Iceland’s or the Faroes. This is wholly unacceptable given the distribution of the stock and Ireland and other EU Member States longstanding dependence on and commitment to sustainable management of this stock

  • advises that the mackerel fishery has traditionally been Ireland’s most important fishery. Ireland has built up a landing and processing hub in the west and north west based significantly on mackerel. Employment and economic activity in that region is strongly dependant on the fishery. All of this is in contrast to the situation of Iceland where mackerel has only been found on a temporary basis in very recent years at low levels and the scientific evidence is showing that it is now substantially moved back to its traditional pattern out of Icelandic waters.

  • asks that the Union negotiating position is immediately revised to take account of this situation and the previous offers made in February are withdrawn.

  • urges that, in the event that Iceland is not prepared to agree a modest share reflecting its involvement in this fishery, trade sanctions should be applied and similar action should be taken in respect of Faroes.

Appendix I

Illustrations of low mackerel abundance in Icelandic zone in 2012 compared to 2011 (IESNS survey April – June 2012)
The situation in 2012

Note almost zero mackerel east of 2W (inside of Icelandic zone) compared to the situation in 2011

The situation in 2011

Given the coincidence of the temperature & zooplankton decreases (especially in the area west of 2W and N of 62) coupled with the low abundance of mackerel observed in the IESNS in 2012 and the declining stock abundance, it is apparent that the Q3 mackerel stock distribution is shrinking back to its pre outburst (original) range.

Appendix II
Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB) and Main Migration Routes
Illustration of the density of the Spawning Stock Biomass of mackerel based on the 2010 triennial egg survey

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