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In spite of generally excellent bilateral relations, Iceland and the UK have had a number of fisheries disputes. The Cod Wars from 1958 to 1976 saw violent clashes between Icelandic and British fishing vessels as Iceland asserted control over the seas surrounding the island.

There are now increasing tensions between the two parties after Iceland started catching large quantities of mackerel. Iceland has been condemned for ‘plundering’ the stock and for threatening its long-term future. The stock is worth some £200 million to the UK economy. Iceland claims it has a legitimate right to the fish, which are found within its territorial waters.

The dispute has become known as the Mackerel War, and trade sanctions have been threatened by the EU. The dispute could jeopardise Iceland’s EU accession.

This note gives a short history of the Cod Wars and describes the current mackerel dispute. It also briefly describes the renowned Icelandic sustainable fisheries model. More information about Iceland can be found in House of Commons Library Standard Note Iceland: an overview.

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