Minister of Fisheries Bjørnar Skjæran has claimed that mackerel have become “more Norwegian” in the last year ahead of next weeks talks
“The mackerel have become “more Norwegian” in the last year. This is the opinion of the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Affairs, Bjørnar Skjæran. When the coastal states meet at the negotiating table next week, Norway will introduce zone affiliation as a central theme,” reports Norwegian fishing magazine Kyst.
“Both the fishing fleet and marine scientists have gained new knowledge about the mackerel stock in the last year. It is guaranteed to be used for all it’s worth in next week’s mackerel negotiations,” says Kyst.
In March, the north eastern Atlantic coastal states consisting of the EU, the UK, Norway, the Faroe Islands Iceland and Greenland gathered in London to negotiate terms of the 2023 mackerel fishery but the negotiations ended with the attending coastal states failing to agree this year’s distribution of mackerel quotas and zone access. Instead, they agreed to reconvene the negotiation at a meeting set for the 10 and 11 of May.
The Norwegian pelagic fishing industry will be hoping that their Minister will bring home a large slice of mackerel pie after next week’s coastal states negotiations. Norway has been pushing for a larger share of the recommended annual quota for mackerel, something which has led them into conflict with the European Union and other coastal states.
Norway caused controversy in 2021 with a decision to unilaterally set its own mackerel quota of 298,299 tonnes. This was against advice set by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) who had advised that the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the entire North East Atlantic should have been 852,284 tonnes. The Norwegian cut equalled 35% of the overall advised TAC.
Iceland and the Faroe Islands also came under severe criticism for unilaterally setting their own TACs for mackerel in 2021.
Iceland set a TAC at almost 141,000 tonnes (16.50% share of the total ICES advice), and the Faroe Islands at just over 167,000 tonnes, an increase on the 12.6% share of the TAC that the Faroe Islands had under the coastal states agreement.
Of the remaining coast states, Russia took a mackerel quota of just over 120,000 tonnes, Britain 222,000 tonnes, the European Union 100,000 tonnes and Greenland 60,000 tonnes
The combined mackerel quotas for 2021 exceeded 941,500 tonnes, or almost 100,000 tonnes in excess of the ICES advice.
European fishing representatives such as Europeche and the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation called for the EU to implement sanctions against Norway over the unilaterally set quota but despite promises from EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius in Killybegs last September, no action was taken.
The massive quota meant that the Norwegian fleet could start their season early, but with fish processors were unable to cope with the number of catches being landed, which led to some of the vessels travelling to other countries in order to find a market for their mackerel. The glut of mackerel on the market also drove down prices, leaving many questioning the wisdom of the Norwegian government’s decision.