17-06-2013 | The Faroe Islands call on the EU to drop threats and return to consultations
Unilateral EU coercive measures would contravene international law
The Minister of Fisheries of the Faroe Islands, Mr Jacob Vestergaard today called on his EU counterpart, Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Maria Damanaki, to abandon her threats of economic coercion against the Faroe Islands in favour of a return to constructive and reasoned consultations on the multilateral and sustainable management of the Atlanto-Scandian herring.
The call was issued in response to the notification by the EU last month of its intention to adopt and implement unilateral coercive measures under its own internal regulations targeting the Faroese pelagic fishing industry, claiming that the Faroe Islands alone are endangering the herring by not having agreed this year to a rollover of the allocation of the stock.
In recent years the Faroe Islands have been calling for a revision of the allocation key to take account of the clear increase in herring distribution and abundance in Faroese waters. The other coastal states (Norway, Iceland, Russia and the EU) have not been willing to address the issue and have continued to apply the allocation from previous years. Without a revised allocation for 2013, the Faroe Islands had no option but to set a catch limit for Faroese herring fisheries which reflects the reality of herring occurrence in the Faroese zone.
In a detailed letter to the EU Commissioner, Minister Vestergaard has urged the EU to respect both the sovereign rights of the Faroe Islands and the long-standing tradition of multilateral fisheries cooperation between coastal States in the Northeast Atlantic. The letter highlights the fact that the EU’s plan to implement potentially devastating economic measures is based entirely on inaccurate allegations, including the erroneous claim that the Faroe Islands have withdrawn from international cooperation on the management of the herring stock.
Expanding on his letter, Mr Vestergaard said: “The EU knows full well that the Faroe Islands have not withdrawn from cooperation on the herring or any other shared stock in our region. The Faroe Islands remain fully committed to the long term management of the herring stock and the scientific advice on the recommended total catch level for 2013.”
“I am extremely concerned that EU’s insistence on finger-pointing and threats of economic coercion are simply a means of distracting attention from the real crux of the problem, which is the need to revise the allocation of shares of the herring stock.”
The first allocation key for herring was originally agreed for 1996 between the Faroe Islands, Norway, Iceland and the Russian Federation. Despite the virtual absence of Atlanto-Scandian herring in EU waters, the EU became a party to the herring agreement a year later, after having set itself an unprecedented unilateral quota of 150,000 tons, which it could only effectively fish in international waters. The allocation key was modified again in 2007, after four years without an agreed arrangement between the coastal states. This was due to Norway’s refusal at that time to sign the annual agreement until its share was increased. Over the years, the Faroese share has remained by far the smallest at just over 5%, which by no means reflects the extent of herring in Faroese waters today, nor the long-standing dependency of the Faroe Islands on fisheries.
Minister Vestergaard points out in his letter to Commissioner Damanaki that the EU’s proposed one-sided punitive action against the Faroe Islands would in fact circumvent a range of recognised international tools, in particular under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, that are available to coastal States to settle disputes of this nature.
“I find it puzzling that the EU has chosen to ignore the options it has available to help resolve the issue under international law, such as through conciliation and dispute settlement mechanisms. Ignoring these avenues is tantamount to contravening internationally agreed principles and procedures for international cooperation on fisheries conservation and management and international trade in fisheries products,” said Mr Vestergaard.
“However, I do firmly believe that we have yet to exhaust our usual approach to resolving disagreements on allocation of shared fish stocks in our region, and that is through multilateral consultations. That is why I have called on the EU to join us in continuing to pursue dialogue and negotiation. We must do so together with the other coastal states to the herring, Norway, Iceland and the Russian Federation. They also have a legitimate stake in the sustainable management of the herring stock and I am sure they would also prefer a peaceful, balanced and inclusive approach to resolving the issue.”
At the same time, the written response to Ms Damanaki today made it clear that if the EU insists on pursuing unilateral economic coercion against the Faroe Islands in relation to this issue, the Faroe Islands reserve the right to take the necessary steps to instigate appropriate compulsory conciliation proceedings under international law.
You can read the letter from Minister of Fisheries Jacob Vestergaard [here
] and the annexes [here