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New EU-Iceland mackerel dispute talks fail: Norway

by Staff Writers
Oslo (AFP) March 11, 2011
Three-day talks between the European Union, Norway and Iceland to find a solution to the so-called mackerel war failed without the parties agreeing on new quota levels, Norway said Friday.

"Things are moving. Our points of view are getting closer but the distance is still such that we couldn't reach an agreement," the head of the Norwegian delegation Johan Henrik Williams told AFP.

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, after quota talks failed, 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 hikes came as Iceland's economy, which is now largely fishing-based, was trying to get back on its feet after its major banks collapsed in 2008.

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.

Williams said new quota proposals were put on the table this week, but he refused to detail the numbers.

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

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