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.


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