Over-Fishing Sanctions Imposed by the EU

A week ago, the Faroe Islands launched a trade dispute at the World Trade Organization to challenge a European Union ban on imports of Faroese herring and mackerel and restrictions on Faroese vessels entering EU ports. The Faroese Prime Minister said, “The measures implemented by the EU are in clear contravention of basic provisions of the WTO Agreement.” The EU on the other hand has claimed that measures are a means to conserve the Atlanto-Scandian herring. However, the Faroese claim that the measures implemented by the EU appear to protect EU industry interests and that the measures of the European Union described are inconsistent with obligations of the European Union under the covered agreements.

In August, the EU banned the Faroese imports in an escalating row about alleged over-fishing, and EU officials said similar steps against Iceland would follow. The Faroe Islands has also brought its case to an arbitration tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This is the first time the EU has used new powers to penalize neighboring lands deemed to have flouted international rules on the amount of fish that can be pulled from European waters.

The EU fisheries commissioner, Maria Damanaki, stated that “given the gravity of the situation and the lack of cooperation from the Faroese authorities, we had no option but to move ahead and take all necessary steps in ensuring a sustainable herring fishery.”

The Atlano-Scandian herring stock was managed jointly by Norway,Russia, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and the European Union up until this past year. Under United Nations rules, the Faroe Islands must negotiate the size of their herring and mackerel catch with the EU, Iceland, Russia and Norway. The allocation of the herring stock was under negotiations between all five states. The Faroese government is allowing Faroese fishermen to catch 105,230 tons of herring in 2013, up from 31,000 tons in 2012, just as the EU has approved new checks on over-fishing it hopes will allow its regional fish stocks to revive.

This is the first WTO dispute that the Faroe Islands have ever been involved in. The Faroe Islands, a self-governed territory within the Danish Realm and not part of the European Union, are in the WTO by virtue of Denmark’s membership of the body, but unlike Denmark they are not covered by the EU’s membership of the WTO.

As a result of the higher catch limit imposed by the Faroe Islands, the EU has adopted coercive economic measures against the Faroe Islands. It has prohibited the introduction into the territory of the Union of certain products of Atlanto-Scandian herring and Northeast Atlantic mackerel caught under the control of the Faroe Islands. It has also prohibited from EU ports any vessels flying the flag of the Faroe Islands that fish for Atlanto-Scandian herring or mackerel, and any vessels transporting fish or fish products stemming from Atlanto-Scandian herring or mackerel that have been caught either by vessels flying the flag of the Faroe Islands or by other vessels authorized by the Faroe Islands while flying the flag of a third country.

In August, the EU established measures in respect of the Faeroe Islands to ensure the conservation of the Atlanto-Scandian herring stock.  The Implementing Regulation asserts that the “Faeroe Islands shall be identified as a country allowing non-sustainable fishing” of the Atlanto-Scandian herring stock. Article 4(1)(i) of Regulation (EU) No. 1026/2012 of the European Parliament was implemented for the purpose of conservation of fish stocks in relation to countries allowing non-sustainable fishing.

Although it seems like the the Faroese have violated the EU’s rules against over-fishing of the herring and mackerel stock, they claim that they are an important stakeholder of the fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic and the sanctions placed will seriously hurt their economy because it will make it harder for them to get multilateral deals on their fish exports. Does the economic risk outweigh the EU regulations? Or do you think that this is the right move by the EU? Could there have been some other option other than sanctions that the EU could have done to get its point across?

Sources: WTO; WTO Dispute; WSJ; Reuters

Picture: Fish to Fork


  1. The European Union has a Fisheries Commissioner, who knew? I would like to know how one attains such a prestigious position, let alone the daily activities and responsibilities of the Commissioner, which undoubtedly are equally as intriguing. One of the important questions in this particular case seems to be the interests of the European Union preserving the herring and mackerel fish, along with the Faroe Islands interest in maintaining a health economy. I think the former is pretty ridiculous. I think most people agree that fish are a form of people that many people on this planet use to supplement their diet. It is not as if the members of the European Union are using this purported measure because they like to watch the fish swim in the ocean. Moreover, it seems as if the Faroe Islands have discovered a way to profit aid their economy through the large-scale fishing efforts. I do not see why this should be a problem, I guess this a question best left for the estimable Fisheries Commissioner.

  2. This is a case of the big guy picking on the little guy. The the Faeroe Islands are islands with the Danish kingdom and have a population of about 49,000 people. Since they do not have EU membership, they don’t have a protection economically. They need to fish to feed the population and on a hunch I believe that fishing is a key part of their exports that help sustain and grow their economy. The EU has 28 member countries with some of them being the most powerful on the world stage. They can do other things economically and to feed their population with low cost solutions by using other food sources. It seems that Island nations depend on a significant amount of fish. The EU to me is acting frivolously by saying a small island nation is “over fishing”. They are basically using the weak environmental excuses, when the facts presented here suggest it is not a critical environmental problem to be denying economic prosperity to the Faeroe Islands.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *