The Member States Committee for Fisheries and Aquaculture backed a proposal of the European Commission for a Regulation adopting trade sanctions against the Faroe Islands due to the country's decision earlier this year to unilaterally treble its existing herring quota from 31,940 tonnes to 105,000 tonnes.
The decision by the Faroes to increase its quota puts the long term health and sustainability of the fish stock at risk. It also goes against the cooperation of other countries who have reduced their quotas by 26 per cent. Mackerel was also added to the sanction plan due to it being caught alongside herring.
The Marine Stewardship Council also recently suspended its MSC certification for the Faroese herring fishery due to overfishing.
EU Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, welcomed the outcome: "I am glad the Committee supported the proposal of the Commission on adopting trade measures on the Faroe Islands. Given the gravity of the situation and the lack of co-operation from the Faroese authorities, we had no option but to move ahead and take all necessary steps in ensuring a sustainable herring fishery managed in a joint manner by all coastal states concerned."
Scottish fishermen welcomed the announcement. Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “We welcome this decision by EU member states and we hope it sends a clear signal to the Faroese that their actions are simply not acceptable in the 21st century and will not be tolerated by those nations committed to sustainable harvesting.
“We note that fishmeal, fish oil and salmon products are not included at this stage, but they could be imposed later if there is no movement from the Faroese in resolving this issue.”
Supporting the EU's plan, Norway’s Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, said Norway will introduce a ban on landings of herring from the Faroe Islands if the country exceeds it quota.
Norway already imposed a ban in 2010 on the landing of Faroese caught mackerel in the country.
Despite most agreeing with the sanctions, Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson said he was disappointed with the choice to impose sanctions.
“We are disappointed to see that the EU chose to impose sanctions on the Faroe Islands for its herring and mackerel catch. We don’t believe this is best way to settle these types of disagreements between friendly countries. This move from Brussels seriously undermines the efforts of the Coastal States to find a solution through diplomacy and dialogue," said Mr Jóhannsson.
"We are confident that a science-based solution can be reached over mackerel catch quotas that is fair to all the coastal states. For this to happen, the EU and Norway must acknowledge the massive shift of the mackerel population into Iceland’s waters over past few years. Quotas should be set based on the realities of 2013 not on mackerel migratory patterns of a decade ago.
"In early July, Iceland issued a call for the Coastal States to resume negotiations and we are pleased that all parties have accepted the offer. We are optimistic that we can reach a solution that ensures a fair share for all and safeguards the environmental and economic interests of the Coastal States.”
The Danish Food Minister, Mette Gjerskov, also disagreed with the sanctions. Ms Gjerskov commented: "It is disappointing that the EU takes this drastic step against the Faroe Islands. It is a small community that is highly dependent on its fishing activities. And we believe the Danish side, that all possibilities for negotiation must be exhausted before resorting to a sanctions. And it is not yet."
The final decision will now come back, upon proposal of Commissioner Damanaki, to the Commission which will discuss these measures, taking into account the opinions expressed in the Committee. A decision can be expected most probably in the course of August.