Scottish fishermen are warning that this week’s announcement that the European Commission and the Faroes have reached a preliminary agreement to end their dispute over quota shares of herring must ensure that the Faroese are not rewarded for their unsustainable fishing practices.
The Faroese withdrew from an international management agreement for herring in 2013 and set themselves a vastly inflated unilateral quota.
As a result of this action, the EU imposed trade sanctions against the Faroes. Last year, the Faroese were entitled to 32,000 tonnes – yet caught nearly four times that amount with a figure of 115,000 tonnes.
But now, following lengthy talks, it is reported that the Faroese have agreed to end their unsustainable fishing practices while the EC would submit a draft regulation repealing their sanction measures.
Commenting on the situation, Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “At the moment we don’t know the detail of this deal but we must remember that the sanctions were put in place to deter unsustainable fishing practices.
“It is clear that these sanctions are having an effect as the Faroese are contesting the move in the international courts. This year the scientific advice states that 419,000 tonnes can be caught amongst all the coastal states, which would give the Faroes a share of 21,500 tonnes.
“If the Faroese set themselves a quota higher than this, then the clearly the EC will have made a huge mistake in removing its sanctions lever. If this does happen, then we will be strongly pressing the Scottish and UK Governments not to support this proposal.
“The other major question is whether the other coastal states participating in the fishery – Norway, Iceland and Russia – have been party to or consulted on this proposal.
“If not, then this could potentially destabilise the co-operation and strong working relationship developed in the management of this valuable stock.”
Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “This proposal clearly has the potential to bring international control back to this important but threatened stock.
“We recognise that the setting of a quota of 40,000 tonnes for 2014, compared to 105,000 tonnes in 2013, is a big shift by the Faroe Islands and would certainly appear to signal a move to more responsible fishery management.
“Any new arrangement involving an increased share for the Faroes above that set aside in the March 2014 Coastal States ASH Agreement should be agreed by all parties and based on equal burden sharing between the Coastal States rather than on just the EU.
“This is a new and developing situation and we expect to hear more about the detail of the agreement from the Commission this week and what it means to possible shares going forward.”