The Irish Government has stepped up its campaign against Iceland’s fisheries policy and warned that the country’s bid to join the European Union (EU) may suffer if it does not compromise on the dispute over mackerel catches.


The European Commission (EC) agreed to expedite trade sanctions against Reykjavik over climbing mackerel catches after Ireland and the UK expressed their concerns at this week’s meeting of fisheries ministers in Brussels. The sanctions would target Icelandic and Faroese mackerel products and the sale of fishing technology to the EU, RTE reports.


Ireland’s Government argued that increasing mackerel catches by Iceland and the Faroes are equivalent to a plundering of Ireland’s most valuable fishery in violation of international law.


Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney said the Faroe Islands and Iceland are now catching almost 50 per cent of the entire mackerel stocks when they migrate into Icelandic waters in the summer. Before 2008, the Icelandic mackerel catch was “negligible.”


“This mackerel crisis is about four issues: jobs, economics, sustainability and fairness. The EU cannot accept the Faroe Islands’ and Iceland’s unjustifiable and unsustainable fishing of mackerel stocks,” he asserted, The Journal reports.


Further, Coveney said realistic debate on Iceland’s bid to join the EU would be impossible if a settlement is not reached, and that Ireland’s concerns were shared by Britain, Spain, Portugal, France and Germany.


“We want this issue resolved and it is a significant open sore that needs to be lanced in my view before we can have a constructive debate during the fisheries chapter,” he said, according to The Irish Times. “I’m not talking about vetoes or any of that kind of stuff, but I think it’s important for us to raise a flag on this issue.”


At the same time, he said he strongly supports Iceland’s bid and saw the country as a potential ally in the union.


“But this is, in my view, an issue that makes it very difficult for the EU to open a fisheries chapter in good faith while there is such a significant outstanding issue in terms of the mackerel crisis, as I would call it,” he continued.


Talks will begin in April on the “chapter” involving fisheries as part of Iceland’s application to join the EU.