EU to impose sanctions on Faroes over herring rift

Fishing boats at the Faroese port of Fuglafjordur. Picture: Erik Christensen

Fishing boats at the Faroese port of Fuglafjordur. Picture: Erik Christensen

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THE European Union is finally set 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.

The European Commission has confirmed that sanctions will be implemented at the end of this month unless the Faroese bring forward a suitable plan for the sustainable fishing of the valuable stock. And the Commission has also announced they will now bring forward similar measures 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.

The move towards trade sanctions was announced at a meeting of European Fisheries Ministers in Brussels.

A European Commission spokesman said: “Ireland, the United Kingdom, France and Spain asked the Commission to consider trade sanctions against Iceland and the Faroe Islands concerning the management of the North East Atlantic mackerel stock and the Atlanto-Scandian herring.

“Many member states supported the taking of such trade sanctions. However, some delegations suggested exploring further possibilities to continue negotiations with Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Since 2008, there has been a recurring dispute on the management of the North-East Atlantic mackerel stock between the EU on one hand and Iceland and the Faroe Islands on the other. Iceland and the Faroe Islands have set unilateral fishing quotas, refusing previous sharing arrangements negotiated between the Coastal States (EU, Norway, Iceland, Faroe Islands). Furthermore, in March 2013 the Faroe Islands also set a unilateral quota for this year for Atlanto-Scandian herring.

“Both fish stocks are important for a number of member states, including the United Kingdom, Ireland and France. “

The spokesman continued: “Concerning the Faroe Islands’ step of setting a unilateral quota for the Atlanto-Scandian herring, the Commission indicated it has already initiated the process to impose trade measures which will be presented soon to the Council. As regards the mackerel stock the Commission is ready to initiate trade sanctions but is still open to explore any possibility to negotiate with Iceland and Faroe Islands.”

Paul Wheelhouse, Scotland’s Environment Minister, welcomed the announcement. He said: “The progress on trade measures against both Faroe Islands and Iceland will be welcome news for Scotland’s fishermen. For far too long the unsustainable fishing of both these nations has gone un-checked and our fishermen, who have been fishing sustainably, have been paying the price.

“Mackerel is Scotland’s most valuable fish stock and it is important for the health of our fishing industry as well as the health of the fish stocks that the reckless plundering of the stock comes to an end.”

Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “This is welcome news and we are pleased the EC has given its commitment to deliver firm action. The irresponsible behaviour of both Faroes and Iceland in their over-fishing of key stocks cannot be allowed to continue. Their actions are threatening the sustainability of important herring and mackerel fisheries, as well as the livelihoods of fishing communities in northern Europe.”

He added: “Hopefully, this new action announced by the EC will provide the spur for both Iceland and the Faroes to return to the negotiating table and so that we can reach a fair and equitable deal.”

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