Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Faroe Islands: Fish Fight with the European Union

Faroe IslandsThe Faroe Islands lie northwest of Scotland and are halfway between Iceland and Norway.  It's an archipelago composed of 18 islands that cover 1399 square kilometers.  It is  113 km long and 75 kilometers wide and is said to be roughly in the shape of an arrowhead, although I think I need a better map to see that.

What's its status under international law?  The Faroe Islands is a self-governing territory of Denmark and is covered by Denmark’s membership of the World Trade Organization. However, the Faroe Islands is not covered by Denmark’s membership of the European Union.

So what are the Faroe Islands up to now?

We wrote a short while back that the Faroe Islands has initiated arbitration against the European Union (EU) pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in connection with a dispute over fishing rights. Why?  Earlier this year, the Faroese government decided to increase the amount of herring its fishermen were allowed to take.  In response, the EU Member States voted to impose sanctions against the Faroe Islands for overfishing of herring.  The Faroe Islands and Iceland charged that the EU actions violate international maritime law as reflected in UNCLOS.  Iceland and the Faroe Islands said the dispute should be resolved through negotiations with the other coastal states: Russia, Norway, and the EU.  At the time of our post, the EU sanctions were not yet in effect.

WTOBut now those sanctions are in effect, and the Faroe Islands, through the Kingdom of Denmark, notified the Secretariat of the World Trade Organization yesterday that they would like consultations with the European Union regarding "the use of coercive economic measures in relation to Atlanto-Scandian herring." 

The request for consultations claims that on August 28, 2013, the EU Commission adopted measures against the Faroe Islands, including prohibition on imports into the EU of Atlanto-Scandian herring and associated species of mackerel caught under the control of the Faroe Islands. The measures also include prohibition of the use of EU ports by Faroese-flagged vessels that fish for these species and by vessels that transport fish and fishery products stemming from herring or mackerel caught by Faroese-flagged vessels or vessels flying other flags but authorized by the Faroe Islands.

This is the first case in which an EU member state has requested consultations under the Dispute Settlement Understanding with another WTO member.  Further information will be available within the next few days on the WTO website in document WT/DS469/1.

The request for consultations formally initiates a dispute in the WTO. Consultations give the parties an opportunity to discuss the matter and to find a satisfactory solution without proceeding further with litigation. After 60 days, if consultations have failed to resolve the dispute, the complainant may request adjudication by a panel.

Click here for more information about the Faroe Islands (and some great photos).

(Adapted from WTO press releases)



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