Monday, September 27, 2010

Something Fishy about the Mackerel war

The Scottish media are getting into quite a tizzy about the looming Mackerel War with Iceland and the Faroes. Talking about bans and squabbling about quotas and representation. Here in the UK we are only hearing, well it isn't really surprising, but only hearing the Scottish angle which is that the Icelandics and the Faroes decision to increase their mackerel quotas unilaterally.

How independent nations could do such a thing is extraordinary when you think of it. After all doing what is right by your own population is what governments are elcted to do.

So to deflect the EU standard-issue outrage about the perfidious vikings, I hand over to one of those Vikings to givce a different completion to the story.

Heeeeere's Hjörtur
This year mackerel has been in the Icelandic EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) in such numbers that it has been hard for fishermen to fish other species without getting mackerel in their nets as well. Many Icelandic harbours were also filled with mackerel this summer and it could easily be caught by fishing poles from the docks. The overwhelming numbers of mackerel in Icelandic waters have had drastic negative effects on the marine biological system resulting e.g. in serious lack of food for other species vital for Iceland’s economy as well as for various sea birds such as puffins.
Most of the bioligical effects of the mackerel have yet to surface and will do so in the coming months and years. As a consequence of all this the Icelandic government had no choice but to issue significantly increased quotas for mackerel to Icelandic fishermen earlier this year in harmony with scientific data and sustainability. The EU has protested this as well as some Scottish politicians claiming that the mackerel belongs to Scotland and the EU despite the fact that it is in the Icelandic EEZ and Iceland is not bound by any agreements on the issue.
So why are the Scottish government and others in the Eu geting so excited, well it appears that they way, and form of the negotiations may have something to do abvout it,
However, perhaps the most interesting part of this whole mackerel dispute is how it is conducted. If Iceland was a member of the EU there would not have been any dispute at all. The EU would then simply have negotiated with itself and then told the Icelandic government how things would be. Iceland would not be in the driver’s seat of its own interests as it is now through its status as a sovereign country. On the other hand the Icelandic government is not dealing with its British counterpart on this issue but with the European Commission.
Consequently when the international media has discussed the mackerel dispute it has referred to the four coastal states involved. That is Iceland, Norway, the Faroe Islands and … the EU.

And I note that Helen got there first, as she normally does.

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