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EU's 'mackerel war' with Iceland heats up

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(BRUSSELS) - The European Union could block Iceland's fishing boats from unloading mackerel in European ports unless a fishing row is resolved, a source close to the European Commission said Tuesday.

EU Maritime Affairs Commissioner Maria Damanaki told the 27-nation bloc's fisheries ministers she wanted to invoke the European Economic Area agreement to bar Iceland from unloading the fish in EU ports, the source said.

Damanaki has instructed her services to start working on an "ad hoc" regulation that would prohibit landings of fish stocks on a raw or processed form when an international sharing arrangement has not been found.

Negotiations between Iceland, Norway and the European Union failed this year.

Iceland, which has applied to join the EU, unilaterally raiseed its mackerel catch quota to 130,000 tonnes this year compared to 2,000 tonnes in previous years, a move that angered Brussels.

The nordic island condemned a decision by the EU and Norway to give themselves a quota of nearly 584,000 tonnes for 2011 in the absence of an agreement.

Iceland's negotiator, Tomas Heidar, has warned that this represented more than 90 percent of the allowable catch recommended by scientists.

"If the EU and Norway do not reconsider their decision, they will bear the responsibility of overfishing from the stock next year," he said in a statement.

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