The EU must actively oppose Norway’s setting of inflated and unilateral mackerel quotas because it impacts the long-term sustainability of this valuable European fish stock and quota.  This call comes from the Irish Fish Producers Organisation, who contend that Norway trades some of this inflated quota with other countries, so they can dramatically increase their catch in other parties’ waters.

“Norway set their own mackerel quota well above the scientifically recommended limits needed to preserve stocks,” says IFPO chief executive, Aodh O Donnell.  “Then they trade some of this inflated quota with non-EU or Third Countries, like the UK.”

The UK and Norway – as Coastal States – entered into a landmark agreement on June 8th on the management of Mackerel in the Northeast Atlantic. This included Norway transferring 24,635 of its inflated mackerel to the UK valued at €38 Million. In return, they gained access to UK waters to catch 165,141 tonnes of its mackerel quota.”

Inflated Mackerel Quotas

“Using inflated quotas to secure trade deals is unsustainable, and the EU must take a firmer stance against such practices. We acknowledge that as Norway and the UK are non-EU countries, such bi-lateral arrangements do not fall directly under the EU’s remit,” says Mr O Donnell. “But the EU does have huge bargaining power with both Norway and the UK, and they must rely on measures such as EU market access to secure fair coastal sharing arrangements. We need to re-establish responsible binding agreements to provide for the equitable sharing of fisheries resources that migrate between or occur in the various economic fishing zones.

“The UK, by its recent agreement, has clearly endorsed Norway’s unjustifiably high national unilateral quota.  It is palpable nonsense for the UK and Norway to state that their unprecedented joint arrangements for 2023 do not prejudice the prospect of agreeing a responsible and sustainable Coastal States quota sharing arrangement’’.

O Donnell says Norway’s irresponsible quota allocation process “is consistent with Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing practices. The recent UK-Norway arrangement ignores the Coastal States (CS) undertaking in Dec 2022 to set national quotas for 2023 ‘at levels which would contribute to a conducive environment for the conclusion of CS consultations.’  The UK-Norway bilateral arrangement demonstrates that sustainability considerations are being ignored.”

Affect on Mackerel Stocks

Brendan Byrne, chief executive of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association agrees.  ‘’Norway’s assertion of ‘their determination to cooperate in reducing the fishing pressure on the stock’ does not stand up to scrutiny. With this new deal, the UK is also essentially agreeing that Norway can fix its national quota as high as it likes, without any consequences. Meantime, these countries that are setting artificially high quotas are desperate to get access to fish these stocks in other countries waters. This is simply not sustainable.”

‘’The Norway-UK bilateral arrangement prejudices EU fishing rights on this stock, and Ireland’s in particular. What is the point of the EU/UK Brexit arrangements under the Trade & Cooperation Agreement, if the UK ignores our legitimate interests and fails to consult the EU. It’s like printing currency – Norway has used their self-awarded quota to pay for access to the UK waters. It is obvious that they are really challenged to catch this prized stock in their own waters, in direct contradiction with their inflated quotas”.

Aodh O Donnell described the UK-Norway agreement as “a further challenge to the sustainable approach of the EU.  The EU must take decisive action to re-establish our mackerel fishing interests and rights. They must deal decisively with the latest mackerel provocation by Norway, and the UK.  We support the recent call by Colm Markey MEP, a member of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, that Ireland must stand its ground during negotiations on 2024 fishing opportunities. We share his concern Nordic countries will seek greater access to Ireland’s fish stock in these negotiations.”

“Being passive and giving ‘free’ access to Norway in EU waters and getting nothing in return must cease in the coming year. We must use our voice to improve our share of sustainable quotas and protect our rich waters in the long term and resist unreasonable Third Country access demands’’.

Media queries to Trish Hegarty at Inis Communications: Mob: +353 86 1740057.