STRASBOURG — The European Parliament on Wednesday approved sanctions on countries such as Iceland and Denmark judged to have over-fished specific stocks, such as mackerel.
The proposals submitted by the European Commission could involve a ban on imports of fish which the EU judges to be over-exploited, with Iceland and the Danish territory the Faroe Islands in the line of fire.
In 2010, Iceland unilaterally raised its mackerel quota from 2,000 to 130,000 tonnes, while the Faroes raised its quota threefold to 85,000 tonnes and then hiked it further to nearly 150,000 tonnes this year.
In reaction, Brussels said in January 2011 it would block Iceland from unloading mackerel in the EU until the dispute over quotas was resolved.
Liberal MEP Pat Cope of Ireland, which has led calls for sanctions over mackerel, said that although they could be used against any country, the situation in the North Atlantic was of immediate concern.
The "mackerel war" has seen a series of ever sharper exchanges between the EU, and Iceland and Denmark.
In July, the Faroe Islands, an autonomous Danish territory, criticised calls by Ireland and other EU countries for sanctions against it and Iceland for over-fishing of mackerel.
France, Portugal and Spain backed Ireland in seeking measures against their north Atlantic neighbours.
The European Commission estimates mackerel fishing this year will be 36 percent higher than levels deemed sustainable for the stock.
If the latest sanctions prove to be ineffective, the Commission could broaden their scope, such as to restrict port access for vessels from countries which do not implement sustainable fishing policies.
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