norway iceland mackerel landing

Norway based pelagic vessel Knester was one of the boats turned away from landing mackerel in Iceland: Photo: Fiskebat

Norway and Iceland could be set for a stand-off as tensions rise between the two northern powerhouses of fishing.

On Monday, Iceland turned two Norwegian pelagic trawlers who were seeking to land their catches of mackerel into processors in Iceland.

The Icelandic government told the vessels that they could not make the landings because the country has a ban in place on Norwegian landings because there is no agreement in place between the two nations.

Two Norwegian vessels that had planned to land mackerel in Fáskrúðsfjörður and Eskifjörður were turned around on Monday reports Icelandic media mbl.is. By law, such landings are not permitted until mackerel fisheries management has been agreed in the North Atlantic.

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Friðrik Mar Guðmundsson, Managing Director of Loðnuvinnslan in Fáskrúðsfjörður, says that the matter could have been easily resolved by granting an exemption in light of Iceland’s great interests, but this was not achieved.

The Norwegian vessel Knester arrived at the pier in Fáskrúðsfjörður on Monday morning and lay at the pier for four hours before the ship was turned to the Faroe Islands where the catch was landed. The Norwegian ship Havsnurp was at the same time on its way to Eskifjörður but was turned back on the territorial waters east of the country and also took the catch to the Faroe Islands.

Friðrik Mar says that he did not know that landing Norwegian mackerel was banned in this country. The company has long had good relations with Norwegian fishing companies, and when mackerel was offered through the Sildesalgslaget market, it was gladly accepted, as there is a shortage of raw materials in the company’s processing, as the trawler Ljósafell is in the slipway these days.

He says that in the last five years, Loðnuvinnslan has bought 165,000 tonnes of blue whiting from Norway, capelin from the Barents Sea from Norway and capelin from the Faroe Islands. The production value of products from this foreign raw material amounted to a total of 10.5 billion (€70.5m), according to Friðrik.

As of 2017, there had been no agreement on the management of blue whiting, but the rules on Norwegian and Faroese landings of blue whiting had simply been changed as there had been obvious interests in the trade. He says that there would have been exactly the same interests in this mackerel trade for the national economy.

In Norway, the fishing organisation Fiskebåt has reacted to the news by saying:

“If the Icelanders do not allow Norwegian mackerel to land in Iceland, the Icelandic fleet should not be allowed to deliver to Norwegian facilities either.”

Fiskebåt has written a letter to the Ministry of Trade and Industry stating that last week there was good mackerel fishing in the Norwegian economic zone. A couple of Norwegian vessels that were not allowed to sell the catch for consumption at the Herring Association’s auction, therefore chose to sell the catch to Icelandic and Faroese consumer plants. Two catches were bought by Icelandic factories, but the vessels were refused to land the mackerel in Iceland by the Icelandic authorities.

Yet, at the same time, Icelandic mackerel catches have been sold to Norwegian facilities at the Herring Team’s auction.

“We are in a situation where Icelandic fishing vessels over several years have had a virtually free fishing for mackerel. Fiskebåt has registered that Icelandic fishing vessels in recent years have fished less and less in their own economic zone. The fishing of the Icelandic fishing fleet takes place to a large extent in the Smutthavet up to the Norwegian economic zone. The figures from the international ecosystem cruise over time show that the zone affiliation for mackerel in Icelandic waters has been sharply reduced,” Fiskebåt writes in their letter to the Minister of Trade and Industry.

Fiskebåt says that the Icelandic mackerel fishery started early:

“For three months, at best, five per cent of the mackerel stock is in the Icelandic economic zone and according to the zone affiliation principle, it will give a quota share of up to 1.25 per cent. Nevertheless, Iceland sets a mackerel quota corresponding to 16.5 per cent of the recommended TAC.”

“The Norwegian authorities set a Norwegian quota for mackerel corresponding to 35 per cent of the recommended TAC, based on the principle of is on affiliation. Both the fleet and the land side have supported the ministry’s assessments and conclusion. The Icelandic fishing fleet started the mackerel season early to fish the quota in the Norwegian economic zone. Fiskebåt believes that the fleet has so far fished more than 150,000 tonnes of mackerel in the Norwegian economic zone.”

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Tension rise between Norway and Iceland over landing mackerel

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