Faroe Island Requests WTO Panel in EU Fisheries Dispute

23 January 2014

The Faroe Islands has moved forward with its first-ever WTO dispute, requesting on Wednesday that a panel be established to hear its complaint against the EU over restrictions imposed on the archipelago's fishing fleets. While the EU rejected the Faroese request at Wednesday's meeting of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body, Tórshavn has the option of filing it again, which would prompt the automatic establishment of a panel.

This first panel request was submitted by Denmark, whose membership in the WTO extends to the Faroes, a self-governing territory. The Faroe Islands are not part of the EU, however, though Denmark is a member. Tórshavn had filed the initial complaint in November. (See Bridges Weekly, 7 November 2013)

At issue in the dispute is an August 2013 regulation banning Faroese shipping vessels from EU ports and the importation of Faroese-caught mackerel and herring. As fish products constitute more than 95 percent of Faroese exports, the stakes are high for the tiny archipelago of about 50,000 people.

Brussels argues that these prohibitions are needed to protect fish stocks in the North Atlantic, after the Faroes exceeded the catch share of 30,000 tonnes that was offered under a joint management plan it has with Norway, Russia, Iceland, and the EU. In 2013, greater stocks within territorial waters led Faroese fishermen to increase their mackerel take above 100,000 tonnes.

Tórshavn, on the other hand, claims the ban violates WTO rules by discriminating against Faroese products, imposing quantitative import restrictions, and restricting freedom of transit. Furthermore, it says, the catch share that the Faroe Islands was offered did not reflect an "equitable share," given the current distribution of herring stocks.

ICTSD reporting.

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