From: Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck, Reuters, BRUSSELS
Published January 15, 2011 08:24 AM

EU to block mackerel from Icelandic fishing boats

The European Union has decided to block Icelandic fishing vessels carrying mackerel from landing at its ports in an escalation of a dispute over fishing quotas.

The European Commission, the executive of the 27-member EU, formally notified the European Economic Area of plans for the ban, the final step before enforcing it.

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"We have informed the EEA joint committee that we will implement the landing bans without further delay," commission spokesman Oliver Drewes told Reuters.

Iceland's decision to raise its mackerel fishing quotas last year has brought it into conflict with Britain, Ireland and Norway, threatening the island nation's bid to join the EU.

Home to just 320,000 people but a major power in the Atlantic fisheries, Iceland began talks last year on joining the bloc in the hope of greater stability and financial security after the collapse of its banking system in 2008.

But the island has also sought to benefit from a surge in mackerel stocks in its waters, an apparent consequence of warmer sea temperatures. Talks broke down last summer and Iceland unilaterally increased the amount of mackerel its boats could catch to 130,000 tonnes.

Iceland's chief negotiator in the dispute dismissed the EU's move as symbolic, saying Icelandic mackerel fishermen rarely took their catches directly to EU ports, preferring to land them in Iceland for processing and export.

"All catches have been landed in Icelandic ports and processed in Iceland," Tomas Heidar told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Photo shows a school of mouth Mackerels feeding near the Malaysian island of Sipadan in Celebes Sea, east of Borneo, March 11, 2007. Credit: Reuters/David Loh

Article continues: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE70D2RO20110114

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