No sooner had the world community discussed the news of Russia's denunciation of fisheries agreement with the UK than another important event in the fishing industry followed.
Russian Ambassador to Denmark said that the Faroe Islands have recently started discrimination against Russian fishermen, adding that Russia will not sacrifice the interests of its fishermen to preserve the fishing agreement with the Faroe Islands. Should we expect the termination of another fishing agreement?
According to the diplomat, a self-governing region within the Danish State has recently taken a course to discriminate against Russian enterprises, in particular by introducing restrictions on entry into ports for Russian fishing trawlers.
The future of the agreement will depend to a large extent on the Faroe Islands' further actions. At the moment, the question of its cancellation has not been raised and no concrete steps have been taken in this direction. However, Russia’s Federal Agency for Fishery (Rosrybolovstvo) has proposed a ban on seafood imports from the Islands as a retaliatory measure.
The proposed Russian retaliatory measures are not intended to worsen bilateral relations under the 1977 fisheries agreement, although the prospects for maintaining extensive cooperation in this area, including trade in fish products, have deteriorated markedly. Cooperation with the Faroe Islands in the field of fisheries can only be carried out on the basis of mutual benefit. The further fate of the agreement depends on this, the ambassador said.
Russian-Faroese fisheries cooperation is based on the agreement signed by the governments of the USSR, Denmark and the local government of the Faroe Islands on 27 November 1977. The agreement was recently extended for 2024. Under the agreement, Russia provides the Faroes with a fishing quota in the Barents Sea, and in return, it gets the opportunity to fish in Faroese waters and transship its catch in Faroese ports.
Russia’s Federal Agency for Fishery’s decision to ban seafood imports from the Faroe Islands follows the Faroe Islands' announcement made in June 2023 regarding tougher sanctions against Russian fishermen. Only fishing vessels exclusively conducting fisheries under the bilateral agreement between the Faroe Islands and Russia were allowed to enter Faroese ports. Besides, a new transshipment limit was also set: about 100,000 tonnes of fish caught in Faroese waters.
How will Russia respond? The ban on seafood imports from the Islands will not have a significant negative impact on Russian consumers for several reasons. Firstly, according to Russia’s Federal Agency for Fishery, the volume of imports from the Faroes has markedly decreased by 50% to 71,500 tonnes from 2018 to 2022. In addition, mostly frozen fish such as herring, mackerel and capelin come to Russia from the Faroe Islands. In turn, Russian fishing companies harvest and deliver these fish species to the Russian shore and produce products from them, the Agency for Fishery said. Another measure to mitigate negative consequences could be a partial redistribution of products exported from Russia to the domestic market.
Thus, it is still premature to talk about the cancellation of the fisheries agreement between Russia and the Faroe Islands; the future of the agreement will largely depend on further steps on the part of the Faroese political leadership.
The editorial board of The Arctic Century