THE European Commission today finally moved to impose trade sanctions against the Faroe Islands because of their continued refusal to enter into an international agreement on the division of the North Atlantic herring stock.
A total ban on the import of Faroese catches of both herring and mackerel into European ports is to be brought into force before the end of August in a major blow for the Nordic nation’s fishing industry. Similar sanctions are expected to be imposed in the near future against Iceland on mackerel.
Last year Icelandic vessels landed 123,000 tonnes of mackerel while Faroese boats took 159,000 tonnes of mackerel, one of the most important catches for Scotland’s powerful pelagic fleet.
Member States have agreed to impose sanctions on the trade of both herring and mackerel from the Faroes to the EU. Mackerel has been included in this EU sanctions package because the Faroese catch the mackerel in association with landings of Atlanto-Scandian herring.
And there may be scope under the sanctions deal to introduce further fish products in the trade ban at a later date. Future sanctions could include fishmeal, fish oil and Faroese salmon products because herring is used in the manufacture of their feed.
The sanctions were welcomed by the leaders of Scotland’s pelagic fleet who have been calling for action for more than two years.
Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “We welcome this decision by EU member states and we hope it sends a clear signal to the Faroese that their actions are simply not acceptable in the 21st century and will not be tolerated by those nations committed to sustainable harvesting. It’s sends a strong signal to the Faroe Islands that their irresponsible and reckless behaviour in terms of increasing their quotas three fold from their traditional share simply won’t be tolerated by nations who are abiding by sustainable and well managed fisheries.”
He added: “We note that fishmeal, fish oil and salmon products are not included at this stage, but they could be imposed later if there is no movement from the Faroese in resolving this issue.”
The trade sanctions were also welcomed by Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Fisheries Secretary. He said: “While I am pleased that action is now being taken, action which I have pressed the Commission to take, I am disappointed that we have reached this point.”
He continued “ We do not take these measures lightly, but given the continued overfishing of Atlanto-Scandian herring by the Faroe Islands, and their refusal to come to the table and negotiate, we believe it essential.
“Such action is necessary if we are to save the stock from collapse. We saw this happen to the blue whiting fishery a decade ago under similar circumstances and we must not let it happen again.
“I urge the Faroe Islands to halt their damaging actions and re-join us at the negotiating table. Only then will we secure a sustainable outcome for the fish stock and our fishermen.”
Earlier this month, following a meeting of European Fisheries Ministers, the European Commission confirmed that sanctions would be implemented at the end of July unless the Faroese brought forward a suitable plan for the sustainable fishing of the valuable stock.
A spokesman for Maria Damanaki, the European Fisheries Commissioner, said: “The Faroese decision to unilaterally increase its quota by more than three times the allocations they would have got under the existing arrangements jeopardises the long term sustainability of the stock. It also constitutes a unilateral disruption of the joint management of a crucial fishery stock”
He continued: “This initiative comes after prolonged efforts by the Commission to find a suitable negotiated solution. Following the Faroese announcement on its disproportionately high quota, the European Union gave a warning to the Faroese authorities in May.
“The Faroese government did not propose any concrete offer for resolution. Given the gravity of the situation and the lack of co-operation from the Faroese authorities, the Commission had no option but to ensure necessary steps are taken to tackle unsustainable fishing activities.”