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EU, Faroes Herring Dispute Nears End

11 June 2014

EU and FAROE ISLANDS - The European Commission and the Faroe Islands have reached a political understanding to end their dispute on the management of Atlanto-Scandian herring in the North-East Atlantic. This agreement between EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki and the Minister of Fisheries of the Faroe Islands, Jacob Vestergaard, comes after a lengthy dialogue between Faroese and EU officials in recent months.

"It is with great pleasure that I am announcing today that the EU and the Faroe Islands have agreed at political level to end their “herring dispute”," said Ms Damanaki.

"According to the agreement that I reached with the Faroese Minister of Fisheries, Jacob Vestergaard, the Faroe Islands will put an end to their unsustainable fishery of Atlanto-Scandian herring in the North-East Atlantic. On our side, the European Commission will take action to stop the trade restrictions that we imposed on the Faroe Islands in August 2013 in reaction to the unsustainable management of the stocks.

"I’m also happy to announce that we reached an understanding that the Faroe Islands will close the proceedings launched against the EU at the World Trade Organization and in the context of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in response to the EU measures. Both sides will now finalise the procedural aspects of this agreement.

"After long and intensive negotiations, I am satisfied that we can soon consider the herring dispute as something of the past: Faroese fishermen will be able to come back to EU waters and European fishermen can continue their traditional fisheries in Faroese waters. Let’s now focus on working hand in hand towards sustainable fisheries in the North-East Atlantic."

As part of the understanding, the Faroe Islands agreed to put an end to their unsustainable herring fishing whilst the Commission would submit a draft regulation repealing the trade and access to EU port restrictions that were adopted against the Faroe Islands in August 2013. The regulation will be examined by EU Member States before it can be adopted.

Both sides have also reached an understanding on the termination of proceedings initiated by the Faroe Islands, as a response to EU measures, at the World Trade Organization and in the context of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The EU's relations with the autonomous Danish territory has been suffering from differing points of view on the management of the stocks of mackerel and herring in northern Atlantic waters in the past years.

Following the unilateral increases in mackerel catch by the Faroe Islands in 2010, the normal bilateral exchanges of fishing rights had been interrupted, which made fishermen from both parties unable to fish in their traditional fishing grounds in each other's fishing zone.

As a consequence of the disproportionate catch limits unilaterally adopted by Faroe Islands for herring in 2013 which put in danger the sustainability of the stocks, and in view of the failure to achieve a negotiated solution, the Commission adopted a prohibition to import in the EU herring and mackerel caught under the control of the Faroe Islands in August 2013 (IP/13/785). Entry into EU ports of vessels engaged in fishing or transporting such fish was also prohibited. In response to these measures, the Faroese authorities initiated proceedings against the EU within the dispute-settlement mechanisms of the World Trade Organization and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The process of normalisation of EU-Faroe Islands fishing relations started at the the end of 2013 when the Faroe Islands accepted to become part of the arrangement among coastal States on the management of mackerel for 2014. This allowed an agreement on traditional exchanges of fishing opportunities, including mutual access to each other's fishing grounds.

The on-going understanding on herring is expected to be the end of the disputes and the beginning of a better collaboration between the two parties. The agreement reached at political level is currently being implemented on both sides.

TheFishSite News Desk

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