Holy Mackerel!

A big fight is brewing over a little fish in the North Atlantic: Iceland, which landed practically no mackerel before 2006, has allocated itself a 130,000-tonne quota. The Faroes, a collection of islands 250 miles north of Scotland, has tripled its usual entitlement. The conflict led to a tense stand off at the port of ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.

A big fight is brewing over a little fish in the North Atlantic:

Iceland, which landed practically no mackerel before 2006, has allocated itself a 130,000-tonne quota. The Faroes, a collection of islands 250 miles north of Scotland, has tripled its usual entitlement.

The conflict led to a tense stand off at the port of Peterhead last week, when Scottish fishermen blockaded a Faroese trawler - preventing it from landing its £400,000 catch.

A big fight is brewing over a little fish in the North Atlantic:

Iceland, which landed practically no mackerel before 2006, has allocated itself a 130,000-tonne quota. The Faroes, a collection of islands 250 miles north of Scotland, has tripled its usual entitlement.

The conflict led to a tense stand off at the port of Peterhead last week, when Scottish fishermen blockaded a Faroese trawler – preventing it from landing its £400,000 catch.

Coupled with an EU warning to take "all necessary measures" to protect its fishing interests, it led to comparisons with the last "Cod War" of the 1970s which saw Icelandic gunboats clash with a Royal Navy frigate.

Mackerel has been increasing in popularity in recent years and unlike most other fish stocks in the Atlantic, the population has actually been well-managed — though conservationists argue that could be undone by Iceland and the Faroes’ moves to increase their quota. The "mackerel war" is also threatening Iceland’s EU accession negotiations. 

For what it’s worth, there’s little risk of a war with Iceland getting too out of control. The country has no standing military. Although, the 55-member "Viking Squad" does sound pretty fearsome. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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