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EU escalates ‘herring war’ with Faroe Islands

The European Union (EU) fired major shots yesterday in a trade war with the Faroe Islands over fishing in the Atlantic, by banning some imports from the archipelago’s fisheries.

At the heart of the row are the lucrative and tasty herring fished by boats from Russia, Iceland, Norway, the EU and the Faroes. Earlier this year, the Faroe Islands opted out of a system in which all these parties set an allowable catch level for this species.

The Faroes’ fisheries ministry has previously said that it believes herring have recently moved their range in response to environmental changes so that significantly more of them are in the nation’s waters. This, the ministry argues, means the Faroes should have a larger share of the quota to catch them. Marine scientist and blogger Andrew David Thaler has called this diplomatic row possibly “the first international conflict directly attributable to climate change”.

Under measures adopted on 20 August, importation of herring and mackerel fished by the Faroes from Atlantic and Scandinavian waters will be banned in Europe, and some boats from the country will be banned from European ports. “The imposition of such measures is always done as a very last resort. The Faroese could have put a stop to their unsustainable fishing but decided not to do so,” said European commissioner Maria Damanaki in a statement.

Even before this move, the Faroe Islands’ government announced it was taking the EU to an international tribunal over “threats” of economic sanctions over the row. According to the Faroes, it is willing to negotiate, and was planning to do so at a 2 September meeting of the states that fish for this fish.


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