Wednesday, 31 July 2013

They do not listen to us ...

... though they should. This will end in tears. The EU has shown itself to be determined to destroy the economy of the Faroe Islands and, if possible, of Iceland. That will show those upstart Vikings. Fancy not wanting to join such a successful organization as the European Union with its outstandingly successful common fisheries policy. Ha!

The European Commission, as the Scotsman reports

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.

The sanctions were welcomed by the leaders of Scotland’s pelagic fleet who have been calling for action for more than two years.

If only those organizations had been so tough with the European Union but that is past praying for. As this blog has suggested a number of times, British fishermen and their organizations ought to look at what the scientific evidence is (not so far disproved by anybody) and try to negotiate deals with the Icelanders and the Faroese. Probably that, too, is past praying for. Meanwhile, the other side of the story is presented by Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen, the Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands, whose political status is a little complicated but who are, nevertheless, more independent than the United Kingdom is. They can decide on their own domestic policy, for instance.

The article has been published by EurActiv and EUObserver and is worth reading in full.

The EU on 31 July will decide whether to adopt coercive economic measures against the Faroe Islands, over a dispute about the quota allocation of Atlanto-Scandian herring.

Not only does the proposed EU action contravene the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and circumvent available procedures to deal with such disputes, it is also based on inaccurate allegations and is counterproductive to a reaching a negotiated solution.

Underpinning the European 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 herring in Faroese waters, and 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.

Then again, even if sanity prevailed in this country we could not negotiate with either Iceland or the Faroe Islands because we do not control our fisheries or our fishing industry. We have to go along with decisions taken in Brussels for reasons that have nothing to do with fishing and everything with politics. It is not a matter for rejoicing, though.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Bullying the Faroese

As this blog has pointed out before, the EU is squaring up against Iceland and, above all, the Faroe Islands, maintaining that they do far too much fishing and should, instead be obeying the rules the EU wants to impose on them. We have also pointed out that instead of joining and, indeed, leading the bully pack, the UK and its fishermen ought to start negotiating directly with Iceland and the Faroe Islands to find out whether there is a way our industry can benefit from what both these countries say has been a huge growth in their fishing stocks.

The Wall Street Journal actually had an article on the subject this morning though the information in it is a little muddled. [Hint: If you cannot call up the full article, type the title into Google; that should bypass the paywall long enough to read it.]

On Wednesday, EU member states will vote on whether to ban imports of herring and mackerel from the Faroe Islands, after the tiny archipelago nation unilaterally permitted its fishermen to dramatically increase their annual catch this year. By the end of July, the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, will also decide whether to take the first step toward similar sanctions on Iceland's mackerel exports.

The actions would represent the first time that the EU has imposed sanctions on a nation outside the bloc that doesn't comply with international fishing quotas.

Sanctions could deal a blow to the economy of the Faroe Islands, a nation of less than 50,000 people that is formally part of Denmark but has autonomy over domestic policies and isn't part of the EU. A ban on herring exports would also affect Faroese mackerel exports—since the two are often caught in the same nets—and prevent Faroese herring trawlers from unloading in EU ports.

Wednesday's vote will take place in the Fisheries Committee, as EUObserver points out, with the decision then being taken up by the Commission, which is not the EU's executive arm but the legislative and the executive. For some reason hacks on the WSJ seem unable to grasp this simple fact.

While the EU is accusing both Iceland and the Faroe Islands of breaking international agreements (unspecified in the article) the Faroese say very firmly that EU sanctions "would contravene UN conventions and argue rising sea temperatures have made more fish move to colder northern seas".

At the very least that assertion ought to be tested but we have seen no scientific arguments that disprove it, merely insistence on countries not in the EU having to obey its rules. It is not as if the common fisheries policy over the last few decades has been particularly adept at conserving the fisheries stock or managing the fishing industry particularly well.

The fishing industry in the EU and the UK is disregarding our advice. Having allowed itself to be decimated by the EU and the CFP it is calling on the EU to try to destroy the Faroese fishing industry and with it, the islands' economy with Denmark, being the only one against that. That is understandable as, for many purposes, the Faroe Islands are part of that country, though their domestic economic decisions remain independent.

According to The Scotsman:

LEADERS of Britain’s £500 million pelagic industry today urged the European Union to block the export of Faroese herring and mackerel to Europe.

• Pelagic industry leaders call on EU to block Faroe Islands from exporting herring and mackerel to Europe

• Call comes as Faroese authorities continue to refuse to enter into international agreement on division of herring stock in North Atlantic.

FishUpdate confirms it and adds:

The Scottish Pelagic Processors Association (SPPA), which represents mackerel and herring processors and has a close relationship with UK pelagic fisherman, also wants to see sanctions urgently imposed on Icelandic fisheries.

Ian McFadden, chairman of the SPPA, said: “Mackerel processing alone supports around 2,260 jobs in the UK with several hundred more involved in fishing.

“For several years now the Faroese and Icelandic fisheries have aggressively increased their quotas of mackerel and refused to negotiate with the EU and Norway, which have historically worked together to ensure sustainable fishing practices.

“This activity is a real threat to jobs in the UK and to the economy of some communities which rely on mackerel and herring as the main source of employment.

“We wholeheartedly back the UK and Scottish governments’ support for sanctions that block fresh and frozen landings of herring and mackerel. We can now conclude that other activity to encourage the Faroe Islands and Iceland to agree quotas are proving ineffective and more drastic action is required.

“While the vote on sanctions against the Faroe Islands is due tomorrow we also believe the EU will soon announce plans for sanctions against Iceland – the sooner this is formalised the better.”

Mr McFadden would probably argue that all he is doing is trying to protect British or, perhaps, Scottish jobs. If only he and his organization had been quite so tough with the European Union's Fisheries Committee, the Commission and various rules and regulations issued under the CFP.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Sanctions or no sanctions?

EUObserver reports that according to Maria Damanaki, the Fisheries Commissar Commissioner, the EU will decide by the end of July whether to impose sanctions on Iceland and the Faroe Islands over the mackerel dispute. Sanctions could include a ban on Icelandic and Faroese fishermen landing catches in EU ports and could even go as far as a complete ban on mackerel and mackerel produce from those sources.

Reuters has a more detailed piece, which reminds the readers of several matters. One is that Iceland is claiming that their mackerel quota was increased because there was a significant rise in the mackerel stocks, a claim that is not apparently being disputed, as the EU's arguments tend to concentrate on the shocking idea that a country wishes to decide its own fishing quotas on the basis of its own scientific advice.

Secondly, the EU is feeling sore: Iceland does not want to come in and is making no bones about the fact that the whole mess of the Common Fisheries Policy is an important reason for that reluctance. Such insolence! Up with this we shall not put.

Any proposal put forward at the end of this month will have to be agreed by the 28 governments (yes, that's right, Croatia is in now but is hardly a substitute for Iceland) so the whole process will take a little while. Of course, if the UK had her own fishing policy we might be able to negotiate with Iceland to our mutual benefit after ascertaining what the truth is about that "surge in stocks". As it is, we had better prepare ourselves for a mackerel and herring war.