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EU, Iceland hold talks in new bid to end 'mackerel war'

by Staff Writers
Oslo (AFP) March 9, 2011
The European Union, Norway and Iceland kicked off new talks in Oslo Wednesday in a bid to put an end to the so-called mackerel war that emerged after Iceland unilaterally hiked its fishing quota, Norway said.

In January, Brussels said it would block fishing boats from Iceland -- which is negotiating to join the 27-nation block -- from unloading mackerel in the EU until a dispute over quotas was resolved.

Some two months earlier, the North Atlantic island unilaterally hiked its mackerel fishing quota to 146,000 tonnes for 2011, after allowing some 130,000 tonnes in 2010 -- an enormous level compared to 2,000 tonnes in previous years.

The Oslo meeting aiming to resolve the matter will last until Friday, fisheries ministry spokeswoman Anna-Berit Herstad told AFP.

Talks on the subject took place in 2010 but were inconclusive.

Mackerel stock was traditionally managed by the EU together with non-member Norway, but Icelandic fishermen quickly got into the industry in 2008 and 2009.

Brussels and Oslo have a common position in the dispute while Iceland can count on the support of the Faroe Islands, a semi-autonomous Danish territory which has tripled its quotas.

Reykjavik and the Faroe Islands argue global warming is pushing more mackerel further north into their waters.

Iceland's small economy, which all but collapsed when the country's major banks went under in 2008, is essentially based on fishing.

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