Brussels, 18 August 2014
Herring dispute: EU lifts measures against the Faroe Islands
The Commission has today repealed the measures adopted against the Faroe Islands in August 2013 following their unsustainable fishery on Atlanto-Scandian herring. The measures imposed at the time will now be lifted as of 20th August 2014.
The decision comes after it was agreed that the Faroe Islands would cease their unsustainable fishery and would adopt a catch limit for herring in 2014 at 40,000t. This level is considerably lower than the one the Faroes had adopted in 2013 and which, according to the current scientific assessments, does not put in jeopardy the conservation efforts of the coastal States sharing the stock.
However, the lifting of the measures does not represent a tacit agreement by the EU that 40,000t is the legitimate share of the stock for the Faroe Islands. It is merely indicative of the fact that the sustainability of the stock is no longer in jeopardy. The decision is also without prejudice to the consultations that will take place in the autumn among the five coastal States (Norway, the Russian Federation, Iceland, Faroe Islands and the EU) on the future sharing of the stock.
The lifting of the measures represents a clean slate in the EU's relations with the Faroe Islands, a country viewed as a potential strategic partner on pelagic fisheries in the north-east Atlantic. European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki intends to meet Mr Vestergaard, Minister of Fisheries of the Faroe Islands, to set the basis for a new era of cooperation.
Following the unilateral increases in mackerel catch by the Faroe Islands in 2010, the normal bilateral exchanges of fishing rights had been interrupted, which made fishermen from both parties unable to fish in their traditional fishing grounds in each other's fishing zone.
Following a unilateral increase of catch of herring by Faroe Islands in 2013 which put in danger the sustainability of the stock, the Commission adopted a prohibition to import in the EU herring and mackerel caught under the control of the Faroe Islands. Entry into EU ports of vessels engaged in fishing or transporting such fish was also prohibited. In response to these measures, the Faroese authorities initiated proceedings against the EU within the dispute-settlement mechanisms of the World Trade Organisation and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The process of normalisation of EU-Faroe Islands fishing relations started at the end of 2013 when the Faroe Islands accepted to become part of the arrangement among coastal States on the management of mackerel for 2014. This allowed an agreement on traditional exchanges of fishing opportunities, including mutual access to each other's fishing grounds. The on-going understanding on herring is expected to be the end of the disputes and the beginning of a better collaboration between the two parties.
As part of the political agreement reached in June 2014 (See also: IP/14/668) it was understood that the Commission would submit a draft Regulation repealing the measures adopted in 2013 to a Committee of Member States. The Committee met 31 July and did not object to this Regulation and hence the Commission launched the process of adoption of the draft Regulation finalised today.
This Regulation, and the lifting of the measures of the measures, will enter into force the day following its imminent publication in the Official Journal of the EU.