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After 1,000 years the Vikings are back - and we are equally as defenceless this time

- Norway goes against Coastal States with 39.5% increase in its mackerel quota

Norway has given up on any attempt to work with the other Northeast Atlantic coastal states by establishing a unilateral quota for mackerel in 2021 of 298,299 metric tons – a steep rise on its 2020 quota of 213,880t.

Justifying an increase that will greatly impact the overall state of the stock for other coastal states, Norway’s Minster Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen said that in recent years, mackerel has shown a clear north easterly shift in its distribution – “this means that more mackerel is now in Norwegian waters than in 2014 when the previous mackerel agreement was entered into".

"It was not possible to get a continuation of the coastal state agreement for mackerel for 2021 after the UK left the EU and became a new independent coastal state," the Norwegian Minister said, adding that this was “regrettable” because this agreement had ensured sound management, stability, and predictability for all parties.

The Norwegian quota for 2021 corresponds to 35% of the catch levels recommended in September 2020 by ICES (the International Council of the Exploration of the Sea) which, says Norway, the quota is based on assessments of how much of the mackerel stays in Norwegian waters during a quota year.

The Northeast Atlantic coastal states had previously agreed in October 2020, to follow ICES advice for Norwegian spring-spawning (NSS) herring and blue whiting catches in 2021.

Ireland outraged

In response, Ireland’s Agriculture & Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue is demanding that EU Commissioner Sinkevičius rejects what the he described as “Norway’s opportunistic claim” for a larger increase in its share of the mackerel stock.

This declaration by Norway to hugely increase its share is a direct threat to the sustainability of the mackerel fishery and the future of the Irish pelagic fishing industry” – Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture & Marine Charlie McConalogue

“This Norwegian decision goes against the management, under a UN Coastal States Agreement involving the EU, Norway and Faroe Islands, for the period 2014 to 2020,” he said, adding that Iceland had refused to participate in the management agreement and the three parties set aside a share of the stock for it.

“In 2021, after Brexit and the UK exit from the EU, the new parties involved have not been able to put a new Coastal States Agreement on mackerel in place – but this declaration by Norway to hugely increase its share is a direct threat to the sustainability of the mackerel fishery and the future of the Irish pelagic fishing industry,” the Minister said.

“This attempt undermines the critically important arrangements for joint management of the mackerel stock by the Coastal States under the UN structure,” he commented, further adding that as the scientific advice sets the sustainable level of fishing each year on mackerel, an increase by Norway means either the stock will be overfished or else other parties will have to take a smaller share and neither option is acceptable.

IFSA comment

Under the EU /UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement (BREXIT), there was to be a 26% reduction in Ireland’s mackerel quota within the EU by 2026, with 60% of this reduction applied in 2021, leaving Ireland with a quota for this year of 60,849 tonnes valued in excess of €80m.

Irish pelagic fishermen have already taken crippling cuts to their share of the mackerel stock due to the outcome of the embarrassing BREXIT deal and, despite Minister McConalogue ‘voicing his concerns’ to the EU Commission, Ireland has already seen the outcome of how serious ‘his concerns’ were taken in the totally corrupt and disproportionate outcome of the TCA that was doled out to Ireland on Christmas eve last.

The fiasco of BREXIT Ireland with an overall quota of less than 15% in its own waters.

So far industry calls for an urgent 'burden sharing' arrangement has fallen on deaf ears. Post BREXIT Ireland are the single largest quota holder of Atlantic mackerel in Western Waters.

Therefore, the Norwegian move will again disproportionately disadvantage our already beleaguered industry.

“Putting this in basic terms – first Ireland was shafted by the EU Commission and came out the biggest losers of all nations in the EU/BREXIT deal and now Norway decides to shaft the EU over mackerel and once again Ireland are set to be the biggest losers” – Cormac Burke, Chairman IFSA

How long can this industry, and this Irish Government in particular, allow the pillaging of our fishing and seafood sectors to continue with apparent impunity?

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