The long-standing bilateral fisheries treaty between the Faroe Islands and the Russian Federation has been duly extended for another year, in line with tradition since almost half a century. The agreement was signed despite pressure from trans-atlanticist quarters to discontinue the collaboration with the Russians over perceived geopolitical differences.
“The Faroe Islands and Russia have today entered agreement on mutual fishing rights for 2024,” the Ministry of Fisheries and Infrastructure stated on December 8th.
“In result from the negotiations, the Faroese catch quota for cod and haddock in the Russian sector of the Barents Sea have been reduced in accordance with the Fisheries Management Plan for the stocks in question, meaning the catch quotas for cod and haddock are reduced by 20 percent and 18 percent, respectively. The Faroese catch quota for flatfish and northern shrimp remain unchanged.”
As for Russian fishing rights in Faroese waters, the catch quota for Atlantic mackerel and Atlanto-Scandian herring are adjusted in accordance with reductions recommended for 2024 by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas, the statement added. “We are dealing with a reduction of 23.7 percent for Atlanto-Scandian herring and a 5.5-percent reduction for mackerel; the catch quota for blue whiting increases by 3,000 tonnes, a slightly lower increase compared to the recommendations of ICES on the blue whiting stock.”
In tonnage, according to the Ministry of Fisheries and Infrastructure, the Faroese catch quota for 2024 in Russian waters have been fixed as follows: cod 9,766 tonnes, haddock 1,047 tonnes, flatfish 900 tonnes and shrimp 4,000 tonnes. Correspondingly, the Russian catch quota during that year in Faroese waters are the following: Blue whiting 75,000 tonnes, mackerel 12,291 tonnes, herring 6,485 tonnes, including possible bycatch.
“Russian vessels have access, during 2024, to fish in Faroese waters up to a maximum 55,618 tonnes of the blue whiting catch quota allocated to Russian vessels in international waters,” the Ministry of Fisheries and Infrastructure noted.
The partnership between the Faroes and Russia on mutual fishing rights in their respective exclusive economic zones originates from a bilateral fisheries treaty signed in 1977 between the island nation and the then Soviet Union.
Doubts had been raised in Danish and Faroese media about the future of the fisheries agreement citing the Ukraine war and the overall security situation in the region. About a year ago, an overwhelming majority of the political parties represented in the Faroese parliament declared their support for the continuation of the fisheries collaboration with the Russians. Meanwhile a group of politicians and news media personalities with strong trans-atlanticist views has campaigned energetically to end all Faroese trade with Russia in protest over the invasion of Ukraine. After they succeeded earlier this year in lobbying the Faroese Government to implement a severe port closure—with likely huge economic consequences for Faroese ports and related businesses and local communities—fears were growing that the fisheries treaty with Russia would be lost as well, by initiative from either the Russian or the Faroese side.
Unsurprisingly, news of the extended fisheries agreement were welcomed by many, as the cooperation with the Russians is deemed to be of significant socio-economic importance for the Faroes in general, and in particular the communities associated with the Barents Sea fishing business.
Notably, three highly sophisticated freezer trawlers at an estimate combined cost of about 1.2 billion dkk (161 million eur)—the Akraberg (owned and operated by Framherji, Fuglafjørður), the Emerald (owned and operated by Havborg, Tórshavn), and the Gadus (owned and operated by JFK, Klaksvík)—have been built in the last couple of years, largely dependent on access to the Russian sector of the Barents Sea. Along with a couple of older trawlers, the new vessels would likely lose their commercial basis should the Faroese loose access to those waters. That would put some 200 highly paid trawlermen out of work and cause a significant decline in revenue not merely for the fishing companies and their employees but plausibly also a range of their numerous subcontractors, with the national treasury as well as affected local treasuries likewise taking a hit.