Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Trade sanctions imposed on the Faroe Islands

Oh goody. The EU has picked someone small enough to bully and to Britain's shame its representatives as well as the representatives of fishermen's organizations have joined in.

The Scotsman reports that
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.
Well, what fun that is. The EU is determined to destroy the economy of the Faroe Islands and, if possible, that of Iceland. That will teach them not to want to join us. Of course, they might start exporting to other countries and thumb their noses at the EU.

The argument in both cases is that there has been a recent increase in the fish stock in northern Atlantic; I have not yet seen that argument disproved. The EU is merely shouting hysterically that these people are not allowed to fish more than they are allowed to do by the EU though they are not actually members. (The Faroe Islands have a complicated status. They are a "a self-governing country within the Danish Realm" and not part of the European Union. Indeed, Danish citizens who live there are not EU citizens though those of other member states are.)

EurActiv and EUObserver have both published an article by Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen, the Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands, which is worth reading in full. Here are some excerpts:
Underpinning the Commission’s proposal to implement economic measures against the Faroe Islands is the assertion by European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki that the Faroe Islands have “left the negotiation table” on Atlanto-Scandian herring.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Faroese government has been repeatedly calling for negotiations between all coastal states to discuss a revision of the sharing arrangement for this important and very valuable shared fish stock in the Northeast Atlantic.

Multilateral management of shared fish stocks should always be based on the best available scientific information on the size and behaviour of the stock. We have been witness in recent years to a marked increase in abundance of herring in Faroese waters, also for longer periods.

Assessments by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) in 2011 and 2012 confirm these new trends and the increased dependency of the herring on maritime areas within Faroese jurisdiction.
Despite the virtual absence of Atlanto-Scandian herring in EU waters, the EU became a party to the arrangement, after having set itself a unilateral quota of 150,000 tonnes in 1996, which it could only effectively fish in international waters.

The allocation key was modified again in 2007, after four years without an agreed arrangement, due to Norway’s demands that its share was increased.

In contrast, the Faroese share has remained by far the smallest all these years at just over 5%. This by no means reflects the occurrence of Atlanto-Scandian herring in Faroese waters today, nor the long-standing dependency of the Faroe Islands on fisheries.

Both the Faroese and Danish governments have underlined to the Commission that all options for renegotiating an equitable allocation of the Atlanto-Scandian herring have far from been exhausted. The Faroe Islands have also repeatedly pointed out that we remain ready and willing to resume consultations with the other parties as soon as possible.

We are seeking the opportunity to present a reasoned and justified claim for an increased Faroese share of the Atlanto-Scandian herring stock to be discussed in the appropriate multilateral context.

But all this seems to have fallen on deaf ears in Brussels. The relentless determination to implement measures against the Faroes is being rushed through the EU system with an absolute minimum of time for EU member states to scrutinise and discuss the political rationale and factual details of the proposal.

A meeting between the five coastal States has now been scheduled for 2 and 3 September in London. Regardless of this, the Commission has chosen to proceed with its proposal for measures against the Faroe Islands, aiming for its adoption by the Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture on 31 July.
Why do I find the arguments in this article as well as the account of the EU's behaviour so persuasive? Could it be that they smack of the truth? As I said, read the whole article.


  1. I recall the so called "cod wars" of the 1970s. The Icelandic fishermen rammed British frigates, these were tough people, and unless you shot them they wouldn't back down.It could be an interesting test for EU soft power. Although maybe today the EU has enough economic levers it can pull to make them back down. Whatever this is going to leave a nasty taste in the mouths of these countries.

    I have to admit the EU is still surprising me. Just when I thought I couldn't hate them anymore, they find a way of making me do just that.

    1. I can assure you the Icelandic people is just as tough today as during the cod wars. If you threaten an Icelander you get the opposite to what you were hoping for.

    2. This time we should be on your side but that is hard to convey to leaders of organizations who are part of the EU's "civic society", something I have written about. However, we ought to organize runs of mackerel and herring into Britain.

  2. As I recall, Ian, they rigged their fast patrol boats with sharp blades. Rather than ramming, they cut the trawl, causing the loss of a very expensive net and tackle.

    At the time I wondered why HMG didn't slip a few SAS people ashore and destroy the patrol boats - not cricket, I suppose.

  3. OK I know it's Wikipedia but see, the picture at the top of the page shows a "collision" between an Icelandic boat and a British naval vessel. So I think it's fair to say they did both. The "ramming" is the more dramatic of the two, so stayed in the mind of an impressionable schoolboy, whereas the more subtle net cutting didn't.

    1. The British frigates also tried a number of times to sink the Icelandic gun boats by ramming them but never managed to. It almost happened a couple of times.

  4. Mark Lyndon August 3 at 11:08 PM

    Last winter I played a small part in supporting the Faroese economy by importing a SIRRI Vikingyarn cardigan.I will continue to support their economy every way I can.

  5. Excellent. We should all do that. I am thinking of organizing runs of herring and mackerel from the Faroes and from Iceland.