Imports of Faroese herring were banned by EU authorities
The small Faroe Islands (50.000 inhabitants) launched a trade battle with the European Union in a David and Goliath contest over EU trade sanctions on its fish.
The islands in the North Atlantic dispute a EU ban on importing Faroese mackerel and herring and restricting vessels to enter EU ports in an official request to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The Faroese Prime Minister Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen said in a statement: “The measures implemented by the EU are in clear contravention of basic provisions of the WTO Agreement.”
EU authorities agreed on a ban of Faroese fish in August, after the territory between Norway and Iceland decided to raise its catch limit of herring to just above 105.000 tonnes per year. The European Union wants to restrict the islands to a limit of 31.000 tonnes.
Trade battle is a modern-day version of Asterix and Obelix
With its trade challenge to the EU the small Faroe Islands appear like a modern-day version of Asterix and Obelix versus the Roman Empire: The islands find themselves in a very isolated situation. They are a self-governed territory of Denmark – Denmark supports the Faroese battle for its fish without taking a clear side – but do not belong to the European Union.
Taking on the overpowering European Union in a “fishing war” could pay off for the islands: Fishing accounts for over 90 per cents of the territory’s exports; higher catch quotas could therefore significantly boost the Faroese fishing industry.
Over 90% of Faroese exports is fish (CC Arne List)
The Faroese government argues that many mackerels and herrings have moved into its territorial waters in recent years and that a higher catch limit would not endanger the species.
“Contrary to claims by the EU that the measures are a means to conserve the Atlanto-Scandian herring, the coercive measures implemented by the EU against the Faroe Islands appear designed to protect EU industry interests,” Faroese PM Johannesen said.
60 days to prevent EU-Faroese showdown
Until the raise of the catch limits Norway, Russia, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and the European Union jointly managed the herring stock in the Northern Atlantic Ocean.
For now the trade battle over import bans is not yet in full swing, as the EU and Faroe Islands have 60 days to settle their dispute.
If they cannot find an agreement, the WTO will be asked to adjudicate and the David and Goliath battle will see its showdown.