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Mackerel War Called Off?

Published on April 9, 2014        Author: 

In November 2013 we wrote about a remarkable WTO dispute initiated by Denmark against the EU (The ‘Mackerel War’ Goes to the WTO). The case is remarkable because it has pitted one EU Member state against the other 27. Denmark, a member of the EU, brought the case “in respect of the Faroe Islands” which are part of Denmark, but not of the European Union.

The dispute concerns fishing quotas jointly managed by the Faroes, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and the EU under the Atlanto-Scandian Herring Management Arrangements. In annual negotiations, the parties decide on the division of the total allowable catch (TAC). In 2013 parties were unable to reach agreement, largely due to refusal to accommodate the Faroe Islands request for a larger part of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC).

When the Faroe Islands unilaterally decided to increase their catch, the EU responded by prohibiting import of herring and mackerel from the Faroe Islands. Denmark then brought a WTO dispute as well as arbitration proceedings under Annex VII of UNCLOS. In its request for consultations to the WTO, Denmark claimed the EU’s response to be in breach of GATT Article I:1, V:2 and XI:1. Denmark also reserved its rights under UNCLOS.

The parties have recently settled their dispute in respect of mackerel. On 12 March 2014, the Faroe Islands, Norway and EU concluded a joint arrangement for the conservation and management of the North East Atlantic mackerel stock for the next five years. The arrangement allocated 13% of the TAC between the parties (not including Russia and Iceland) to the Faroe Islands. This is a sizeable increase compared with the 5% that had been previously allocated to the Faroese, and the proportion is set to increase again next year.

The WTO dispute, however, is centered on herring, whereas the new agreement only deals with mackerel. Pending an agreement on herring, the WTO complaint and the UNCLOS Annex VII arbitration continue, and EU Regulation 793/2013, establishing sanctions against the Faroe Islands, remains in force. Read the rest of this entry…


The ‘Mackerel War’ Goes to the WTO

Published on November 13, 2013        Author: 

Faroe_Islands_in_its_regionIn a typical David and Goliath story, the Faroe Islands – a small archipelago situated northwest of Scotland, halfway between Iceland and Norway, and inhabited by less than 50,000 people – have  requested consultations with the European Union under the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Understanding. The dispute, which concerns fishing rights in the North Atlantic, has been dubbed the ‘mackerel war’ although it primarily concerns herring – mackerel being described as an ‘associated’ species.

Atlanto-Scandian herring is the largest herring stock in the world. Heavy exploitation due to overfishing led the stock to collapse and to the cessation of all fishing from the early 1970s to the 1990s. Atlantic herring is highly migratory and during its life cycle it migrates between the 200-miles EEZs of several States. Today, fishing quotas are jointly managed by the Faroes, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and the EU under the Atlanto Scandian Management Arrangements. In recent years, the Faroes have been catching about 17 percent of the entire quota, although their allocated share is approximately five percent. The Faroes have justified the higher quota arguing, together with Iceland, that rising sea temperatures have led to an increase in fish stocks.

On 28 August 2013 the EU introduced ‘trade measures’ against the Faroe Islands. The measures include a prohibition on imports of herring and mackerel into the EU, as well as the prohibition of use of EU ports by Faroese vessels. The Faroes has condemned the EU sanctions and declared the measures a ‘contravention of… international obligations to cooperate on the management of shared fish stocks.’

The dispute has left the Danish Government in a difficult position. Read the rest of this entry…