The controversy is between Iceland, Scotland, the Faroes, and the EU and arises from the struggle to maintain sustainable fishing practices with limited impact the involved countries’ fishing industries. It has become a problem because while mackerel was not previously a widely popular fish, it has for some time made up a third of Scotland’s industry. The fish have now not only become more popular to eat, but have migrated north so that much more of the population lives within Iceland’s territory. Iceland and the Faroes have now begun to raise their quotas because of this, placing a “disastrous” strain on both Scotland’s fishing industry and on the EU’s attempts to maintain sustainability.
The reason Icelandic mackerel fishing has become such a controversial issue is that many members of the EU feel that Iceland’s and the Faroe Island’s fishing practices are both irresponsible and selfish. In recent years, mackerel populations have been migrating farther north, supposedly due to climate change, and thus more and more of them are settling in Icelandic and Faroe Island territory. The timing couldn’t be better for Icelandic fisherman, who recently suffered from the depletion of blue whiting stocks in Icelandic waters, and they have responded by raising their quotas on how many tons of mackerel they harvest. While Icelandic fishermen argue that they are completely within their rights, since the fish are in their territory, EU members (especially Scottish fishermen, who rely heavily on mackerel), have expressed concern at the amount of mackerel Iceland and the Faroe Islands are taking out of the water. Not only does this threaten the Scottish fishing industry, but it also threatens the mackerel population. Fishermen outside of Iceland fear that such irresponsible fishing will result in mackerel no longer being certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. This could mean not only a loss in business from conscientious consumers, but ultimately the loss of the industry altogether.
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